Orban calls Turkey ‘strategic partner’ on security, migration

Turkey is Hungary’s strategic partner when it comes to security and the issue of migration, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Budapest on Thursday.

Hungary’s foreign policy thinking starts from the premise that migrants heading for Europe cannot be halted without Turkey’s involvement, Orban told a joint press conference in Varkert Bazar. Orban said Hungary appreciated Turkey’s actions to stop 350,000 illegal migrants from travelling to the European Union this year, he said. “Had [Turkey] not done so, all these people would be amassed along Hungary’s southern border,” Orban said. Orban said Hungary was capable of protecting its borders and it was certain that no illegal migrants could cross Hungary’s borders. The PM pledged to take part in reconstruction programmes in Turkey’s neighborhood and in the safe zone commensurate with Hungary’s “weight”.

He said Hungary fell within a geographical area defined by Istanbul, Moscow and Berlin. Orban noted that President Vladimir Putin and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Budapest recently. “This is just the foreign policy we want to pursue … and we’re working closely with the countries that are determiners for Hungary.”

Referring to Hungary-Turkey cooperation, Orban noted that in 2013 a deal was reached in Ankara with Erdogan to establish a Supreme Strategic Council and meet each year.
He said military cooperation between Hungary and Turkey, both NATO members, was progressing well.

Hungary and Turkey, he said, have jointly funded programmes in Africa, including a medical mission to Kenya. Soon water and health aid to Ghana will get under way, he added.

Bilateral trade is worth between 3.1-3.2 billion euros a year, Orban said, adding that the aim was to increase this amount to 6 billion. Orban said the TurkStream gas pipeline from Turkey to central Europe is being built and Hungary should be receiving gas from the pipeline by the end of 2021. The PM noted that Hungary had made its largest capital investment outside the country recently when oil and gas company MOL acquired a stake in an Azeri gas field coupled with a pipeline to Turkey. The deal, he added, needs to be approved by Turkey’s competition authority.

On the topic of Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, Orban said Hungary would always show Turkey respect. “If someone in Hungary fails to show such respect, my job as prime minister is to apologise to Turkey … We don’t accept any country or its leader being mocked by anyone.” Orban said Hungary wants to avoid having to halt hundreds of thousands of people at its southern borders. “We must back Turkish efforts to establish security zones in its neighborhood and repatriate migrants.”

Erdogan that almost four million refugees currently resided in Turkey and many would set out for Europe. “Due to cooperation, we have held this crowd back with patience,” he said, adding that a security zone was needed so the migrants can be sent back home. Erdogan said he had agreed with the United Nation’s secretary-general that a donor conference would be organised to implement Turkey’s plans.

Hungary supports Turkey in the fight against terrorism and the countries are allies and strategic partners in NATO, he said. The only way to fight against international terrorists is if NATO allies “refuse to talk to the terrorists”, he added. Turkey has taken resolute action against Islamic State fighters, and its dedication to these efforts will be maintained, he said. Erdogan insisted that Turkey had not received the sum the European Union had promised for taking care of refugees.

In response to a question, he said Turkey would continue looking after them but the country would not be able to handle everything. If no solution is found then the “gates will have to be opened and it is obvious in which direction people will set off.”
Meanwhile, Erdogan said Hungary-Turkey trade turnover was “realistically” targeted at 6 billion dollars.

He expressed appreciation for Hungary’s support for Turkey’s EU accession. The EU, he said, had recently handled Turkey “in a rather dismissive manner”. He said this also harmed the bloc since the EU could greatly benefit from Turkey’s membership. Turkey maintains good relations with the Visegrad group and plans to strengthen it, he added.
The fourth meeting of a Hungary-Turkey high-level strategic council was held in Budapest, covering many issues which could have a great impact on the future, he said. Among these issues, he cited politics, security policy, migration, trade and cultural relations, education and road haulage.

A group of 15 Turkish businesspeople are in Budapest to hold talks, he noted, adding that the government in Ankara is giving all its support for building business ties, he said. The same is expected from the Hungarian government, he added. He expressed thanks to the Hungarian government for its support for the operation of a school by the Maarif Foundation in Budapest from September 2020. Erdogan praised “exemplary cooperation” in nurturing the two countries’ common historical and cultural past. He noted that the tomb of 16th century Dervish and poet Gul Baba in Budapest opened last year after being refurbished.

Erdogan noted that Hungary has observer status in the Turkic Council and an office of the organisation recently opened in Budapest. This, he said, also helped the development of ties with Central Asia.

In response to a question about his upcoming meeting with US President Donald Trump, he said bilateral relations, the regional situation and trade issues would be discussed, and the most important topic would be the fight against terrorism.

Source and photo: MTI

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