Dialogue is now more important than ever, and this means speaking to others besides just the Western media, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Facebook on Saturday, where he shared an interview he had given to Russian news channel Izvestia.
In the interview, Szijjártó said the Hungarian model had proven “very clearly” that being a member of the European Union and NATO did not rule out good relations with Russia. The minister expressed hope that this position would be supported by other countries’ ties with Russia as well.
Szijjártó said he saw no need for Hungary to mediate dialogue between Russia and the West, arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken twice with both US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in recent days. He noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was set to have talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also preparing to speak with Putin.
“It seems to me that a wave of dialogue has been launched, and this is the best possible news we can get,”
he said. “Because for us central Europeans — we’re not a big country in central Europe, for sure — it is our core national interest . to have a pragmatic and a civilised relationship between East and West.”
Asked about Hungary’s attitude towards Russian proposals against NATO’s eastward expansion, Szijjártó said Hungary understood them.
Szijjártó said that hopefully the issue could be resolved because “if you base your relationship on mutual respect then there’s no obstacle, basically”.
Asked about reports that the UK and the US were sending 1,000 troops to central Europe, mainly to Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, Szijjártó said he was not aware of the situation in the other countries, but the report was untrue in the case of Hungary.
“We have NATO forces on our soil, which is the Hungarian army,”
Szijjártó said. “The Hungarian army is a NATO army. And according to the current situation, the Hungarian army is in appropriate shape to protect the country. So we don’t need external forces on our soil.”
As a NATO member, however, Hungary is constantly cooperating with other member states, the minister said. Hungary has agreements in place on training missions and exchange programmes, “but nothing out of this normally ongoing cooperation takes place”, he added.
Commenting on an announcement by Croatia that it would not get involved in a potential war in Ukraine, Szijjarto said Hungary had learned its lesson from history that central Europe tended to lose out in conflicts between East and West.
“That’s why instead of making theories for some unprecedented events, we’d rather ask everybody to cool down the tension,” he said, adding that countries should “use the toolkit of diplomacy”.
Hungary does not want to see a return to the Cold War, he said, adding that the best way to avoid it was “civilised, pragmatic, trust and respect-based dialogue”.
Asked about the situation of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, Szijjártó called it a “tough issue”. There are some 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in western Ukraine, he noted. “They are not migrants. This is a community which is indigenous. This community has been living there for centuries,” he said.
Szijjártó said the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine were being constantly violated since 2016, with the government infringing on ethnic Hungarians’ right to use their mother tongue in education, public administration, the media and culture.
Every now and then new proposals are submitted to the Ukrainian parliament on further restrictions to minority rights, he said. “And this is something that we cannot accept.”
Hungary was not serving Russia’s interests by protecting the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine. “And our national community must get back the rights which have been taken away from them,” Szijjártó said.