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Hungary falls out with EU over protracted Ukraine war, Russia sanctions

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto

The rift is widening between Hungary and other European countries over the Ukraine war, as Budapest continues to call for a swift end to the Russia-Ukraine war, urging Kiev to start peace talks with Moscow.

On Tuesday, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto met with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna in Paris. After the meeting, he said Budapest's position on the war is different from that of almost all other European countries, including France.

Some EU members expect “that maybe there will be a better war situation from the Ukrainian point of view, when it will be better to conduct negotiations. We don’t believe in this, we think that people’s suffering must end now," Szijjarto said.

Russia launched what it calls "a special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, over the perceived threat of the ex-Soviet republic joining NATO.

Since then, the United States and Ukraine's other allies in Europe have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems, despite Kremlin's warnings that it will only prolong the war.

Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow, with Hungary insisting that sanctions won't end the war.

Unlike other EU member states, Hungary has repeatedly urged Russia and Ukraine to strike an immediate ceasefire and start peace talks.

“Hungary, as a country neighboring Ukraine, has faced all the immediate consequences of the war in the last year,” which include “more than one million refugees, skyrocketing inflation” and soaring energy costs, said Szijjarto on Sunday.

The Hungarian foreign minister, however, noted that recent developments in the conflict signal that “the war will drag on,” which is “the worst possible news we can receive” in the current situation.

France backs Hungary's position on sanctions

After his meeting with French minister for energy transition Agnes Pannier-Runacher, Szijjarto said both Budapest and Paris were against imposing EU sanctions on nuclear cooperation with Moscow.

"Together we fought hard for the EU to classify nuclear energy as sustainable and together we are fighting against discrimination against nuclear energy ... We both agree that it makes no sense to impose sanctions on nuclear cooperation with Russia," Szijjarto said.

According to the Hungarian top diplomat, France's Framatome, a French nuclear reactor business, has in parallel been an active participant in the construction of units directly relating to the Paks-2 nuclear power plant (NPP) in Hungary.

"Successful investments in Paks are a basis for a long-lasting and reliable energy supply to Hungary," Szijjarto said. "That is why we are grateful to the French government for allowing Framatome to install instrumentation and control systems for the new Paks nuclear power plant."

Back on January 13, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that EU sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine were a mistake and should be ended, arguing that if the anti-Russian sanctions are removed, energy prices and inflation would fall in half.

"It is certain that America won the war and Europe lost. There’s a debate over whether Russia won or lost. If we talk in terms of money, we can’t say that Russia lost too much," he said at the time.

Orban said the Western sanctions against Moscow were unsuccessful in destabilizing Russia and instead dealt a substantial blow to Europe itself.

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