President Katalin Novák met with her Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on Friday to discuss terrorism and the Hungary Helps program, as part of her four-day official visit to Iraq.
“We just had a historic meeting with Abdul Latif Rashid, President of Iraq, as no Hungarian President has ever visited Baghdad before. We both agreed that international terrorism is our common enemy and we condemn all of its forms. Hungary’s commitment is shown not only in words but also in deeds, as Hungarian military forces participate in the fight against the Islamic State,” President Novák said in an English-language post on Facebook. The two presidents discussed the Hungarian government’s Hungary Helps aid program designed to support the most vulnerable groups of society including children, women and persecuted Christians. “We firmly believe that help must be provided where trouble emerges instead of bringing troubled people to Europe,” the office quoted her as saying. President Novák discussed with the Iraqi president the Russian-Ukrainian war, and they were in agreement that the sides should make peace as soon as possible. The Hungarian president afterwards travelled on to Tel Skuf where she participated in a community prayer for peace. Novák also visited a kindergarten in a town in northern Iraq where Hungary has helped rebuild several residential houses, schools and a church destroyed by ISIS. Later on, Novák visited Alqosh and met Lara Yussif Zara, the mayor.
Accompanying President Novak, Tristan Azbej, the foreign ministry’s state secretary for aiding persecuted Christians and the coordinator of the Hungary Helps scheme, told public media that “due to our Christian identity, we stand up for persecuted Christians, the most persecuted religious community in the world, with 300 million of its followers suffering persecution as a result of their beliefs”. He noted that Tel Skuf that Hungary has provided humanitarian emergency aid to the town and contributed to rebuilding 900 residential houses allowing nearly 1,000 families to return to their homes. Later, in Erbil, President Katalin Novák met Hungarian troops serving there and told them Hungarians wanted peace in their homeland and on their borders. On the visit to the base in Iraqi Kurdistan, where she was received by contingent commander Gábor Hraska, Novák “conveyed the respect and thanks of the Hungarian people”, and warned of the possible escalation of the 10-month war in Ukraine. Hungary needs its troops to maintain and preserve peace, she said. Further, Hungary needs experienced soldiers who have useful practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge for the protection of the homeland, she said. International terrorism is another common enemy, she said. “You are fighting against international terrorism here, in Kurdistan.” Tamás Vargha, a state secretary of the defence ministry, also greeted the troops.