Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó met with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov on Thursday hours after an EU official said member states had an understanding not to meet with Russian officials as it “doesn’t make much sense”.
Szijjártó justified his meeting with his Russian counterpart in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations’ General Assembly by writing in a Facebook post that “peace requires negotiation, negotiation requires dialogue!”
In an accompanying video, he said he asked Lavrov whether he had met with other EU foreign ministers while in New York and had been told it wasn’t the case.
“Of course, it may be that at home, opposition MPs, spokesmen, or members of the opposition press will criticise my meeting with Sergei Lavrov, but the fact is that if peace is not achieved without dialogue, it will not be achieved,” he went on.
“And I think that out of anywhere, it is here at the UN General Assembly, that this dialogue should have been started. And I think that if there are no talks on peace in the coming period, the world will face even more serious consequences, which it would be good to prevent,” he added.
Their meeting came just hours after EU Commission spokesperson Peter Stano told reporters that “it doesn’t make much sense to communicate with the Russian leadership right now because Putin yesterday confirmed very clearly for the whole world, exactly on World Day of Peace, that he’s interested not in peace but in a continuation of his aggression in violation of the UN Charter.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday morning declared a partial military mobilisation in a televised address to the nation that could see up to 300,000 men drafted to join the war. He also confirmed that referenda would rapidly be held in Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine which Kyiv and Western countries have denounced as a bid to quickly illegally annex them before Ukrainian forces currently making rapid gains in the east of the country reach them.
The Kremlin chief said that after the referenda — which have been denounced as a sham in the West — any attempts to recapture the territories would be seen as a direct attack against Russia.
EU member states reacted to the announcement by convening an extraordinary foreign affairs council in New York to start work on another round of sanctions against Moscow.
Stano stressed that the EU “have never cut the communication channel with Russia. We still communicate but the communication takes place in specific circumstances and there is time and space for the communication.”
“There is an understanding among the EU member states that at this particular stage meeting Lavrov for example in New York would not make much sense because it would not bring the necessary results.
“The reason for any engagement with Russia is to convey our messages, to convey our argumentation and our calls on them to stop this insane, illegal war. But in an atmosphere where they are escalating step-by-step, day-by-day this illegal aggression, it doesn’t make much sense to have direct interaction, specifically with Lavrov, specifically in New York, specifically this week,” he went on.
Hungary has increasingly voiced its opposition to EU sanctions against Russia, arguing they’re having a significant negative impact on the continent’s economies.
The landlocked country, which heavily relies on Russian fossil fuels, has already used its ability to veto — EU sanctions must be unanimously backed by the 27 member states — to carve out concessions in the punitive measures already imposed including a Russian oil embargo.
They also prevented the addition of Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and one of Putin’s most ardent supporters, on the bloc’s sanctions list.
Budapest has now announced that they want to poll the country’s citizens on whether they support sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine in what is seen as an attempt to further put pressure on Brussels to water down upcoming sanctions.
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