Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Hungary ‘shocked’ by statements threatening escalation of war

Hungary is "shocked by statements concerning Western troops to be sent to Ukraine, a possible use of nuclear weapons or even introducing mandatory conscription in Europe," Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said in Minsk on Wednesday.
29. May 2024 15:20

At a press conference held jointly with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Aleinik, Szijjarto said both countries had to face the “dramatic ramifications” of the war in Ukraine on a daily basis, according to a statement by the foreign ministry.

“We Hungarians have already paid a huge price irrespective of the fact that it is not at all our war … Hungary’s goal is clear: we want to stay out of that war in neighbouring Ukraine,” the ministry quoted Szijjarto as saying. He insisted that there was no military solution to the war, adding that “in the battlefield there are only death and destruction”.

But “as long as we are in government in Hungary, we will not allow a single Hungarian to be taken to the Ukraine-Russia front … we firmly protest against introducing mandatory conscription in Europe,” he said. “The road to peace starts with a ceasefire with peace talks to follow,” he said, and asked Belarus to “do everything to ensure that the war, suffering, and senseless killing end in Ukraine and we all can again live in peace in the region,” he said.

The re-emergence of blocs in the world poses a “serious long-term risk” he said, adding that it went against Hungary’s interests. “We want the world to make steps towards connectivity and international cooperation … we think that we need as few sanctions as possible and as much cooperation as possible,” he added.

The Hungarian government wants to develop its cooperation with Belarus in all areas that are not affected by the EU’s sanctions against Russia, he said, adding that Belarus was also ready to cooperate. He also noted that he was accompanied by representatives of 24 Hungarian companies on his visit, and added that the delegation was set to have 92 bilateral talks while in Minsk.

Last year Hungarian companies exported nearly 10 million hatching eggs to Belarus, followed by several hundreds of thousands of baby chicken this year, Szijjarto said. He also noted two Hungarian companies being among the 20 companies with the largest pharmaceutical market share in that country.

Szijjarto referred to Belarus as “an extremely important factor” to Hungary’s energy security, noting that 80 percent of Hungary’s crude oil supplies came through Belarus, with a total of 4.5 million tonnes last year and nearly 2 million tonnes delivered already since the beginning of 2024.

Secure oil supplies to Hungary “would be impossible without the Druzhba pipeline … for physical reasons … oil can only be shipped through pipes,” Szijjarto said. He noted that “no other pipe of such capacity comes to Hungary” and added that Croatia had “raised the transit fee for rather than the capacity of their own pipeline.”

Hungary and Belarus have signed a nuclear energy cooperation deal under which “Belarusian experience could be used in (Hungary’s) Paks upgrade project,” Szijjarto said. “I hope that Belarus’s companies would soon join US, German, and French companies that are currently working at the Paks nuclear plant construction as partners of Rosatom,” the minister said.

On another subject, Szijjarto said in the next sports season Hungary would continue to offer an opportunity for Belarusian sports teams to play their matches in Hungary “just as it had done in the case of Israel and Ukraine.” He noted that Israel’s national football team, the Ukrainian handball team and Belarusian teams had played cup matches in Hungary in the past season.

The Hungarian government is against “mixing up geopolitics and sports” and “we are also against political factors determining who is allowed to compete in the Olympic Games and who is not,” he said.

Meanwhile, addressing a Hungary-Belarus business forum, Szijjarto reiterated the Hungarian government’s aim to develop cooperation with Belarus in all areas not affected by EU sanctions.

“We Hungarians do not believe in a policy of sanctions. That policy, in our experience over the past two and a half years, has failed, caused enormous damage, and more to European economies than to the Russian,” the ministry quoted Szijjarto as saying.

He noted that bilateral trade totalled 142 million euros last year and has already grown by an annual 20 percent so far this year. Company leaders in the delegation he is heading represent the food, agriculture, pharmaceutical, construction and machinery sectors, the minister said.

Szijjarto said that the Hungarian government will continue to allow Belarussian nationals to obtain a Hungarian visa without restrictions, adding that “we will not accept any sort of pressure on the matter”. Citizens of Belarus can apply for a visa in eight cities, he added.

Speaking about cooperation in education, the minister mentioned the government scheme ensuring 50 yearly grants for Belarussian students studying at a Hungarian university.

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