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Orban pitches ‘quick ceasefire’ to Zelensky

During a surprise trip to Kiev, the Hungarian prime minister argued that a truce would “speed up” peace negotiations

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has urged Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky to halt military operations against Russia in order to reach a peace deal with Moscow. Orban has long maintained that the Ukraine conflict could spiral into a continent-wide war, and that restoring peace is his government’s foreign policy priority.

Orban arrived in Kiev on Tuesday for a surprise meeting with Zelensky, in his first visit to Ukraine in more than a decade. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Orban said he had asked Zelensky “to think about whether it would be possible to take a break… to reach a ceasefire and start negotiations [with Russia], since a quick ceasefire could speed up these negotiations.”

Orban said that he was “very grateful to Zelensky for his honest answer in this regard.”

The Hungarian prime minister did not reveal Zelensky’s answer, although it is unlikely that the Ukrainian leader shared his enthusiasm for a truce. Despite mounting battlefield losses and protestations from some of his own aides, Zelensky has insisted since 2022 that he will return Ukraine’s former territories – including Crimea – by military force.

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Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban In Rome, Italy on June 24, 2024
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However, while Zelensky has not abandoned these goals, he stated last month that Ukraine “does not want to prolong the war,” and will “put a settlement plan on the table within a few months.” In follow-up comments last week, he said intermediaries such as Türkiye or the UN could help broker talks with Moscow.

Orban has pushed for such a plan since the outset of the conflict. Under his leadership, Hungary has refused to supply Kiev with weapons or allow Western arms into Ukraine via its soil. Budapest has also threatened to veto several of the EU’s 14 packages of sanctions on Moscow, agreeing to these measures only after securing concessions from Brussels, including a partial exemption from the EU’s bloc-wide oil embargo and a guarantee that its nuclear sector won’t be affected by future packages.

These positions have placed Orban at loggerheads with Zelensky and the EU leadership in Brussels. “The Brussels bureaucrats want this war, they see it as their own, and they want to defeat Russia,” he wrote in the Magyar Nemzet newspaper on Saturday. 

Orban traveled to Kiev a day after Hungary assumed the European Council’s rotating presidency. “The goal of the Hungarian presidency is to contribute to solving the challenges facing the European Union. My first trip therefore led to Kiev,” Orban said in a statement on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

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Aside from pushing Zelensky toward a ceasefire, Orban said he used the face-to-face meeting to lobby for the rights of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia, whom Budapest argues are treated as second-class citizens by Kiev. The pair also discussed trade, energy, and infrastructure cooperation.

“We are trying to close all previous disputes and focus on the future. We want to improve relations between our countries,” Orban told reporters.

July 02, 2024 at 08:01PM

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