Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that securing an immediate ceasefire and starting peace talks in Ukraine is the only way to fulfil “the critical task of saving lives”.
Addressing a joint press conference with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Aleinik, the foreign minister said the war was producing a growing number of casualties and refugees, and tearing apart more and more families. “So there’s no more important task than to save lives,” the foreign ministry quoted Minister Szijjártó as saying. “And lives can only be saved if this war ends.” During his talks with Aleinik, Minister Szijjártó emphasised: “We Hungarians are on the side of peace.” “I have also asked … Belarus, too, to do everything possible in the interest of peace and prevent a prolongation and escalation of the war,” Minister Szijjártó said. He said it was clear that he would be “attacked” over his visit to Minsk and his talks aimed at securing peace. “My fellow Western politicians and the international liberal media will all say how bad it is that I was here today and talked with my Belarusian counterpart,” he said. “The Hungarian position has always been clear: communication channels must be kept open … because if the channels of communication are shut down, we abandon the hope for peace.”
The foreign minister also insisted that the rhetoric of war was growing more and more voluble, and he called on the international community to focus on achieving peace rather than making decisions and remarks that risked prolonging or escalating the conflict. “Maybe the situation doesn’t seem that serious an ocean or a few hundred or thousand kilometres away,” the minister said at a news conference in Minsk. “But we Hungarians who live in the war’s neighbourhood are fully aware of the devastating effects of the war.” Hungarians have already paid a high price for the conflict next door, Szijjártó said, noting that more than a million people have fled Ukraine via Hungary, and everyone felt the effects of “wartime inflation and the European Union’s ill-advised sanctions policy in their own skin”. Hungary and Belarus have both offered to host peace talks between the two sides, Minister Szijjártó said. At the same time, holding the peace talks was more important than where they would take place, he added. Meanwhile, Minister Szijjártó said he and Aleinik had also discussed bilateral cooperation in areas not affected by sanctions, such as agriculture and the food and pharmaceutical industries. He noted that Hungarian exports to Belarus in the latter two sectors were already significant. They also exchanged road haulage permits, clearing all legal obstacles to the transport of goods between one other’s countries, the minister said. Minister Szijjártó said that although they had not discussed domestic political matters, he had underscored the importance of guaranteeing minority rights and religious freedom. He said they had agreed that the Hungarian government will provide more support for the renovation of the Uspensky Cathedral.