Photo: Israeli Defence Forces (archive)

Szijjarto: Israel conflict must not become interstate war

The international community must do everything it can to prevent the conflict in the Middle East from escalating into an interstate war, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Luxembourg.
24. October 2023 5:30

European Union member states are sharply divided on the crisis in Israel, Szijjarto said after a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, according to a ministry statement.

The Hungarian government’s position on the matter, he said, was clear: killing thousands by firing thousands of missiles at a country and taking hostages was “unacceptable and inexplicable”.

“So we consider it self-evident that Israel does indeed have a right to defend itself,” Szijjarto said. “The European Union must stand by Israel as firmly as possible, since it is a victim of a terrorist attack.”

“At the same time, we also think that the international community should make efforts to avoid escalation,” the minister said. “If an escalation can’t be avoided, a broadening of the Middle East conflict could create a situation which could poison the life of the Middle East and the wider region for many years and possibly decades.”

The most important goal, Szijjarto said, was to prevent the conflict from escalating into a formal interstate war. “We hope all members of the international community will act responsibly,” he added.

Concerning the safety of civilians, Szijjarto said the ministry is in contact with all 15 Hungarian nationals still stranded in Gaza, from where it is currently impossible to leave.

“We are, of course, working to make sure they can leave the Gaza Strip as soon that is made physically, politically and legally possible,” he said.

Szijjarto also underlined the importance of making sure that the conflict did not hurt the stability of other countries in the region, particularly those such as Egypt, helping to halt migration towards Europe.

“If it were not for Egypt acting responsibly, if it weren’t keeping illegal migration at bay, Europe would be faced by a migration wave from the south-east, which would pose an almost insurmountable security challenge,” he said.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto assured Oliver Varhelyi, the EU commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, of his support in connection with “attacks” levelled against him. “We believe it is totally normal and expected in this situation to monitor the transfer of all forms of EU funding if there’s a chance that it could end up in the hands of terrorist organisations,” he said.

The minister also expressed concern over the “alarming” images seen on the streets of certain western European cities.

“The modern-day anti-Semitism that has emerged in western European countries is a cause for serious concern, as is the fact that demonstrations in support of terrorist organisations are permitted in various western European cities,” Szijjarto said.

“This is inconceivable on Hungary’s territory,” he said. “It is not permitted to organise demonstrations in support of terrorist organisations in Hungary.”

“We regret that western European countries think differently about this, and we regret that modern-day anti-Semitism has reared its head in western Europe,” Szijjarto said, adding that this was an “obvious consequence” of the absence of joint European action against migration.

The minister said that as long as illegal migration was “encouraged” from Brussels, western Europe could expect the continued formation of parallel societies as well as a rise in anti-Semitism.

Ministry in constant touch with Hungarian citizens trapped in Gaza Strip

Szijjarto said the ministry is in constant touch with 15 Hungarian citizens stranded in the Gaza Strip, and efforts are under way to bring them to safety as part of an international agreement.

According to a ministry statement, he noted that international cooperation was under way to evacuate people, “though for us, clearly what’s most important is that the 15 Hungarians who … want to leave Gaza can do so.”

The minister said that people attempting to leave Gaza via the Rafah border crossing towards Egypt must pass through three checkpoints, “and they had managed to pass through two when they were turned back for security reasons”.

Szijjarto said he had spoken with his Egyptian counterpart, and permission had been granted for them to enter Egypt, but “they didn’t reach the point where this would have been physically possible,” he said, adding that this had taken place “more than ten days ago, so I don’t think I’ve endangered anyone by talking about this now.”

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