More preparation is needed for talks between the leaders of Hungary and Ukraine to take place, Budapest has said
The conditions are not yet in place for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to hold their first meeting since the fighting between Kiev and Moscow began, a senior Hungarian diplomat has said.
Relations between the neighbors have soured over the past two years as Hungary – unlike most other Western nations – has refused to provide weapons to Ukraine and consistently called for a peaceful settlement of the conflict with Russia. Budapest has also voiced opposition to Kiev becoming an EU member, and is currently blocking Brussels from providing a €50 billion ($55 billion) aid package to Ukraine.
When asked about the possible leaders’ talks during an interview with the Magyar Nemzet newspaper on Wednesday, Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Levente Magyar replied that “in preparing for the meeting between Vladimir Zelensky and Viktor Orban, we set a condition: first we must agree on the methods of resolving the contentious issues on the negotiating table.”
“We haven’t got to that point yet, so the meeting isn’t timely at the moment,” the diplomat stressed, adding that preparations for the high-level negotiations are continuing.
Kiev’s tone in relations with Budapest was “already belligerent” before February 2022, but became worse after the launch of Russia’s military operation, he noted. “We attributed this to heightened emotions, since Ukraine was obviously in a kind of panic in the first phase of the conflict, and it wasn’t even certain whether it could endure.” Budapest took this into account and didn’t react “to the sometimes harsh outbursts of Ukrainian leaders,” the deputy foreign minister added.
Levente Magyar reiterated that protecting the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine’s Transcarpathia Region remains a priority for Budapest. As for Kiev’s potential EU membership, “a possible accelerated accession [which the European Commission in pushing for] would surely cause more harm to the Hungarian people than benefit,” he said.
Last week, Zelensky said he would like to hold talks with Orban. The Hungarian PM confirmed that he had received such an offer, saying that the meeting “might take place some time in the future.”
Zelensky and Orban had a brief chat at the inauguration of Argentina’s President Javier Milei in Buenos Aires earlier this month, but the content of their discussions remains unknown. The Ukrainian leader only claimed that he challenged Orban to give him at least one reason why Kiev shouldn’t be in the EU.