Foreign minister: Hungary backs US call for NATO to join coalition fighting Islamic State
Brussels, March 31 (MTI) – Hungary supports an American initiative to get NATO to formally join the coalition fighting the Islamic State terrorist organisation, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said at a one-day Brussels meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers on Friday.
Speaking to journalists during a break, the minister said the US administration had made clear two expectations of NATO, one being the alliance taking on a bigger role in fighting terrorism and the other that member states should live up to their previous undertaking to increase defence spending.
Hungary agrees with these American targets and regards the complete elimination of the Islamic State (IS) terror group as key to solving the migration crisis and the problem of the nascent disappearance of Christian communities in the Middle East, he said.
The government will initiate that parliament should prolong Hungary’s participation in the anti-IS coalition by further two years, up until late 2019, and increase the strength of the Hungarian contingent deployed in the region from 150 to 200, the minister said.
Szijjártó confirmed that Hungary would raise its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024 as expected by NATO.
Hungary is also involved in efforts to strengthen the countries directly threatened by the Islamic State. To this effect, it provided training for Iraqi soldiers and Jordanian security forces over the past half year, and will organise a similar programme for Egyptian soldiers in summer, he said.
Szijjártó stressed the need to boost the Euro-Atlantic integration of the western Balkans countries and maintain NATO presence in the region.
Hungary to defend rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine
Hungary is ready to help Ukraine’s EU integration process and is a staunch supporter of a visa waiver and of a free trade agreement with the EU, but will stand up for the rights of ethnic Hungarians in that country, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told MTI after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart on Friday.
Meeing Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of a Brussels meeting of EU foreign ministers, Szijjártó stressed that planned amendments to Ukraine’s language law, education law or citizenship law should not hurt the rights of ethnic Hungarian communities of the country. Should this happen, Hungary will not hesitate to address the issue at EU forums, he said.
At a meeting with his Icelandic counterpart Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, the parties agreed on setting up a work group to promote cooperation in exploiting geothermic energy sources and thermal springs. Thordarson welcomed that, as part of the NATO Smart Defence Programme, Hungary was prepared to participate in the defence of Iceland’s air space from 2020.