Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: ‘Fair chance’ that NATO summit can avoid escalation of war

There is a "fair chance" that the NATO summit under way in Vilnius can avoid an escalation of the war in Ukraine, and makes a "responsible decision" on Ukraine's perspectives of joining the alliance, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday.
11. July 2023 18:14

The most important objective of the summit for Hungary is reinforcing the statement that NATO is not part of the conflict and will do everything in its power to avoid an escalation, a ministry statement cited Szijjarto as saying ahead of the meeting.

“That is of primary interest for those living in the war’s immediate neighbourhood, as an escalation would first endanger the countries that are geographically the nearest,” he said.

“All other issues, including the future relations between Ukraine and NATO, will have to be interpreted in that context,” he added.

Meanwhile, “there is a camp campaigning forcefully for a clear schedule” for Ukraine’s NATO accession, he said. “Those thinking responsibly and advising caution oppose that agenda,” he said.

Szijjarto insisted that Hungary had been alone to propagate caution openly, “while there were others [advising caution] behind closed doors”. Many of those countries have recently promoted caution publicly, too, “and it became clear that the number of those thinking responsibly is larger than it seemed,” he said.

“Obviously, the NATO integration of a country currently at war is out of the question. … That would mean an immediate threat of war to the entire alliance,” he said.

There is a “good chance” for a responsible decision as the draft of the summit’s closing declaration contains no concrete deadline for Ukraine’s NATO integration, he said. It only refers to the Bucharest declaration of 2008 “which says that Ukraine can eventually become a member of NATO”, he said.

NATO is a value-based organisation, and those values will also play a role in the accession procedure, he said.

One such value is the protection of minorities, which NATO has set to Ukraine as an expectation, Szijjarto said. Hungary will monitor that issue especially closely, and will consider it carefully when determining its stance on the issue, he said.

The draft of the closing document also states that Ukraine’s invitation to NATO is conditional on the country fulfilling all requirements, “so there is no commitment,” he said.

“Unless the draft changes significantly in the coming hours, I think there is a chance to avoid the most irresponsible and dangerous decision,” he said.

Regarding the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, Szijjarto noted that the government had submitted its proposal to parliament months ago. “We obviously did that because we support the ratification … when parliament concludes the ratification process is a technical issue,” he said.

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