Relations between the United States and Hungary are heading in the right direction, Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog quoted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying after a brief exchange with him at a prayer breakfast in Washington, DC on Thursday.
Balog is on a four-day visit to Washington, where he has held talks with US lawmakers, attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast and opened an exhibition about persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Speaking to MTI, Balog quoted Tillerson as saying that a series of new appointments in the State Department had brought about a change in the department’s approach to Hungary.
On the topic of the Hungarian government’s efforts taken to protect persecuted Christians, Balog said Hungary and the US have developed a close working relationship in this area. The US has shown a growing interest in all that Hungary has been doing for persecuted Christians, he said.
Hungary has pledged to help Christians in the Middle East, but rather than donate to international organisations, it directly aids Christian communities that want to stay in the region instead of fleeing and becoming refugees, Balog said.
“We’ve been contacted by specific American organisations asking us to share our experiences with them,” the minister said.
One such organisation is the US government’s aid agency USAID, whose leader, Marg Green, Balog had also held talks with.
He also met leaders and members of the biggest lobby group for aiding Christians as well as former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who was recently appointed US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Balog said Brownback was particularly interested in hearing about Hungary’s experiences in the Middle East.
Balog also held talks with lawmakers who recently sent a letter to Tillerson urging the State Department to suspend a programme financially supporting sections of the Hungarian press. These lawmakers considered this programme outrageous because they can personally attest that there are no problems with press freedom in Hungary, the minister said. Balog said he and his negotiating partners had also discussed ways to give new momentum to Hungarian-US ties.
“They promised to help in any way they could,” he said, adding that a US congressional delegation would soon pay a visit to Budapest.
On Friday, Balog is scheduled to hold talks with White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.