The Hungarian government urges “to have peace as soon as possible … to have a ceasefire and negotiations about peace”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said concerning the war in Ukraine in an interview to US broadcaster One America News Network (OANN), published on Facebook on Sunday.
Noting the conflict’s impact on Hungary, Szijjártó said that many of the one million Ukrainian refugees that had fled to Hungary had stayed in the country and were provided equal access to health services and education. The government has ensured direct subsidies to businesses employing refugees, he added.
Szijjártó also noted soaring energy prices in Europe, adding that while Hungary’s energy imports had totalled 7 billion euros last year, the country would pay 19 billion this year and 29 billion euros next year to cover its energy demand. “That’s why we urge for peace,” he added. The debate in Europe on the conflict offers “very limited” hope for peace because “everybody speaks in the voice of war and escalation”, he said, adding that during the latest meeting of his EU counterparts “I was the only one who used the word peace”.
Szijjártó said Hungary, a major energy importer, tries to prevent the European Commission from making proposals that could reduce the volume of gas or oil on European markets and thus further increase prices. The Hungarian government is firmly against such proposals as putting a cap on gas prices or similar measures, he said.
The Hungarian government firmly condemns the war, he said, but noted Hungary’s close proximity, and added “for us it is always bad news where anywhere else in the world, like in Washington, for example, decisions are made that bring the risk of further escalation”. Concerning critical remarks about Hungary’s maintaining ties with Russia, Szijjártó said “we talk to the Russians because Russia is a reality and will be reality regardless of how the war ends”, adding that cutting lines of communication would equal giving up the hope for peace.
Referring to the EU’s sanctions against Russia, Szijjártó said they were “failing totally”, with soaring raw material and food prices. The war has not ended, and “the European economy is the one on its knees and not the Russian one”, he said.
In another development, Szijjártó said “I can’t prove it, but my feeling is that if the presidential election here, in 2020, had played out in a different way, then this war might not have broken out”. Should the West have “strong leaders, who can talk to the Russian president about finishing this war and making peace finally, that would be a much better situation,” he said.
“If President Trump had won the election in November 2020, then I guess this war would not have broken out,” he insisted.
Szijjártó said the immediate goal should be to prevent a direct conflict between NATO and Russia or else it could lead to developments “none of us would like to experience”.
He noted the Hungarian government’s advocating a “cool-headed approach” and its decision, as the only NATO member, not to send weapons to Ukraine. Hungary is also the only EU member that has declined to contribute to an EU training programme for the Ukrainian military. “Someone has to be able to speak in the voice of peace, because if we don’t have such an actor, then it will be much more complicated to come to real peace talks,” he said.
Concerning an upcoming G20 summit, Szijjártó said the conference would provide an opportunity for the Russian and US presidents to be at the same physical location. “It would be very, very complicated for both of them to explain … why on earth they would not meet” and talk to each other, Szijjarto said.