Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Inviting Ukraine to NATO ministerial undermines unity

The decision to invite Ukraine to a meeting of NATO foreign ministers undermines the principle of the alliance's unity, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday, adding that Hungary would only support its north-eastern neighbour's aspirations for integration if it restored the rights of its Hungarian minority.
5. April 2023 5:29

“Hungary has come here in the hopes that nobody will question the validity of the alliance’s earlier decision declaring that NATO would not be party to the war going on in our neighbouring country, and that everything must be done in order to prevent a direct conflict between NATO and Russia,” Szijjarto said on Facebook ahead of the meeting.

He said the decision to invite Ukraine’s foreign minister undermined the principle of unity within NATO, adding that in spite of this, Hungary was attending the meeting “in the spirit of being constructive”.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine committee, Szijjarto said today’s meeting had been the first one in six years because the NATO secretary general had been under pressure to convene it despite Hungary’s refusal to change its stance.

“We believe this seriously hurt NATO’s general approach to and rules on uniform and unanimous decision-making, but of course we acknowledged the decision,” Szijjarto said, according to a ministry statement.

He added that the secretary general as well as the Greek, Croatian, Canadian and Turkish foreign ministers had all talked about the need to respect minority rights.

Szijjarto said Ukraine had been systematically violating the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians since 2015. He cited the example of minority schools, saying that 99 Hungarian primary and secondary schools in Transcarpathia were under the cloud of closure from Sept. 1 when 1,300 schools and kindergartens in Hungary had taken in Ukrainian refugee students.

“I made it clear that we will not support any decision on Ukraine’s integration until the country restores the rights held by Transcarpathian Hungarians before 2015,” the minister said. “We will continue to stand by the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians.”

Meanwhile, he said certain participants at the meeting had made “belligerent statements” about military victories and weapons deliveries while there had been little mention of peace.

“So Hungary’s position is also rather unique within NATO in the sense that we advocate peace rather than strengthening the rhetoric or war,” he said, underlining that ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine were also being conscripted into the army.

“And we won’t stop calling for peace regardless of the pressure they put on us and regardless of the attacks on us,” he said. “It’s very simple: peace is a good thing and war is a bad thing.”

Szijjarto noted that Hungary had unconditionally taken in more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees and more than 1,300 Hungarian kindergartens and schools had welcomed Ukrainian refugee children.

Szijjarto said Hungary was punching above its weight in providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine and was contributing to its reconstruction by supporting the renovation of schools and hospitals there.

He said Hungary believed China’s plan to end the war was worth discussing.

Meanwhile, the minister said that because the risk of a third world war was now “greater than ever before”, it was important to strengthen the validity of NATO decisions declaring that the alliance was not party to the war and that it would do everything to prevent a direct conflict between itself and Russia.

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