Hungary’s Orban invites Swedish PM for NATO talks

BUDAPEST: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Tuesday (Jan 23) he had invited his Swedish counterpart to visit and negotiate his country joining the NATO military alliance, a process that Hungary and Türkiye have delayed.

Asked about the invitation, a spokesperson for Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a text to Reuters that Stockholm had not yet decided how to respond.

“Today I sent an invitation letter to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson @SwedishPM for a visit to Hungary to negotiate on Sweden’s NATO accession,” Orban said on the X social media platform. No specific date was proposed for the visit.

The aim of the visit would be “to build trust”, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters on Tuesday.

“Political and security cooperation needs unconditional trust,” he added.

Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022 in a historic shift in its security policy prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February that year.

But Türkiye and Hungary both raised objections, holding up a process that requires unanimity among NATO’s member countries.

Finland finally joined last year but Ankara pressed Stockholm to toughen its stance on members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in Sweden, which the United States and the European Union as well as Türkiye deem a terrorist group.

Türkiye’s parliament was set to approve Sweden’s NATO application later on Tuesday and President Tayyip Erdogan was expected to sign it into law in the coming days.

That would leave Hungary as the last country to ratify Swedish membership, a position that Orban’s government has said it wants to avoid.

British foreign minister Lord David Cameron, in a post on X, said he had discussed with Orban on Tuesday “the importance of Sweden’s swift accession to NATO, making Allies safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure”.

Hungary and Türkiye both maintain better relations with Russia than other members of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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