Foreign Minister builds relations with Bahrain

Hungary supports a free trade agreement between the Gulf countries and the EU, and is hoping to conclude a Hungarian-Bahraini agreement on investment protection by March.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, met his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, on Thursday to discuss the Russia-Ukraine conflict and economic cooperation.

Minister Szijjártó told a joint press conference after the bilateral meeting that the war in Ukraine was “the worst-case scenario”. Hungary stands by the sovereignty of Ukraine and finds recent developments “worrisome”, Minister Szijjártó said in Manama. As a neighboring country, Hungary sees it as a priority to protect Hungarian citizens and to “stay out of the armed conflict”, he said. The Hungarian foreign ministry on Thursday summoned Russia’s Ambassador to Hungary to brief him on Hungary’s stance on the conflict, Minister Szijjártó said. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is travelling to Brussels later on Thursday to attend a meeting of the European Council regarding the EU’s response. Talks are ongoing among NATO member states, too, and Hungary is taking part in shaping the response, he said. The minister again called on Hungarians in central and eastern Ukraine to contact the embassy in Kyiv and “avail themselves of the safety it can provide”.

Minister Szijjártó insisted that certain leftist initiatives would see Hungary deploy “troops and weapons” to the conflict zone. The government does not support that “extremely irresponsible” concept, he said. Regarding Hungarian-Bahraini cooperation, Szijjártó praised the stabilising influence of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Gulf area. Security in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf, is tightly connected to European security, he said. “We also appreciate that Bahrain has started to mend its relations with Israel by signing the Abraham Accords,” he said. Trade volume between the two countries grew by 40 percent to USD 20 million last year, Minister Szijjártó noted. Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 56 million dollar credit line for joint ventures to facilitate Hungarian investments in Bahrain.

The minister said Hungary also supports a free trade agreement between the Gulf countries and the EU, and is hoping to conclude a Hungarian-Bahraini agreement on investment protection by March. Talks are under way on cooperation in cyber security and information technology, and the largest Hungarian company, oil and gas company MOL, is conducting talks on making Bahraini oil production more efficient, he said. Hungary will also offer 10 grants for Bahraini students wishing to study here, he said.

Al Zayani said they had agreed to strengthen cooperation in renewable energy, improving water quality and in health care. He and Szijjártó discussed opportunities for cooperation in education, culture and sports, he said. They also drafted a working plan for further steps such as preparing investment support and an agreement against double taxation, he said. “Bahrain welcomes Hungarian investors,” he said. Al Zayani and Szijjártó also signed an agreement on joint diplomatic training, he said. Minister Szijjártó led a delegation of 48 Hungarian companies to Bahrain. The Hungarian-Bahraini economic committee held its first meeting on Thursday.

Photo credit: Facebook/Szijjártó Péter