FM: Hungary is following the situation in the Middle East with mounting concern

The foreign minister urged the avoidance of any escalation of the conflict in the Middle East.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said Hungary is following the situation in the Middle East with mounting concern.

Speaking in New York on Monday, the foreign minister urged the avoidance of any escalation of the conflict there. He said a broadening of the conflict entailed the risk of the outbreak of a world war. Before meeting two deputy secretaries-general of the United Nations and the director of the UNRWA, Szijjártó said Hungary advocated doing everything to ensure that an attack similar to the Oct 7 attack on Israel “cannot happen anywhere in the world”. Counter-terrorist operations underway were not only in Israel’s interest but in that of the entire world, he added. The minister said Lebanon had a key role to play in keeping at bay any escalation of the conflict. Noting that the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel was intensifying, he said the Beirut government appeared to want nothing to do with it, so the international community should give it all the support it needs. Szijjártó also emphasised the importance of protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid to ordinary residents in Gaza, warning that they were close to the brink of starvation. He said it was “cowardly” when terrorists used innocent civilians, families, and children as human shields and positioned themselves next to schools and hospitals.

Regarding hostages, Minister Szijjártó called for their swiftest possible release, and he noted that a Hungarian citizen is still being held hostage, and he trusted that he was still alive. Hopefully, mediators led by Egypt and Qatar would succeed in reaching a deal on exchanging prisoners, he added. The minister referred to a “scandal at UNRWA” which he said had undermined the agency’s credibility. Dozens of the organisation’s employees have been accused of collaborating with Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The related reports should be thoroughly investigated, he said, and the structure of the UN’s operation there reviewed if wrongdoing was confirmed. He said humanitarian problems around the world were “extremely serious”, with more than 300 million in need of assistance, but the UN budget was not quite sufficient for this. Hungary, he said, punched above its weight in this regard and had mounted its largest humanitarian operations ever in connection with the war in Ukraine, while also taking part in managing the humanitarian consequences of the Middle East crisis. Hungary extends aid to Egypt, directed particularly at its health system, he noted. This, he added, was important in terms of European security. Hungary has also handed over 8.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to several countries in need, he noted. Hungary is also involved in a 1 billion US dollar tied-aid programme with African and South-East Asian countries with a view to improving water supply and wastewater treatment, the minister said.

Later, addressing the UN General Assembly, Minister Szijjártó said Hungary continued to stand for peace and dialogue, adding that the country opposed all forms of terrorism. Hungary, he said, had borne the consequences of the war in Ukraine for more than two years and protected the external borders of the European Union against illegal migration, bound “in a vicious circle” with terrorism. Given these immediate security challenges, Hungary “is committed to peace, diplomacy, continuous global dialogue, and is against all forms of terrorism,” he said. Regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid, the minister praised Egypt in this regard. On the subject of the hostage situation, he urged the immediate, unconditional release of hostages, and expressed gratitude to Qatar for mediating in the release of three Hungarian hostages. He asked Qatar to carry on its efforts to ensure the quickest possible release of the other hostages. A sensible agreement was needed between the opposing parties before the start of Ramadan, he added. Meanwhile, he said Hungary was “a strategic partner of Israel” while also keeping strong ties with Arab countries in the region. “As a responsible country, Hungary is ready to play its part in finding an appropriate solution to security crises worldwide,” he added.