Hungary strengthens ties with Israel: minister

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BUDAPEST, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Hungarian government will open a foreign trade representation in Jerusalem, which will be another step forward in strengthening Hungarian-Israeli relations, official sources said here on Tuesday.

"Hungary and Israel are close allies in terms of security and economic cooperation, and they are cooperating within international organizations," Peter Szijjarto, minister of foreign affairs and trade, was quoted as saying by the official Hungarian government website.

Szijjarto made this statement in Israel, where he accompanied Prime Minister Viktor Orban on an official visit.

In Jerusalem, Szijjarto met with Israeli officials to discuss security and economic cooperation on Tuesday.

The minister said that Hungary's stance, which it "expressed frequently and unequivocally," was that international organizations often took a "downright unfair and biased approach towards Israel," adding that Hungary always stood by a balanced and fair approach to the country.

Referring to the Middle East peace process, the minister said that "Economic and trade restrictions should not be mixed up with the creation of peace," since the two had nothing to do with each other. The minister said Hungary rejected bans and blockades of products from Israeli settlements, arguing that "such an approach wouldn't lead anywhere."

The minister also said that Israel and Hungary had "fought side by side" against the United Nations' global migration compact. He said this was an important achievement from a security standpoint.

Just like the United States and Israel, Hungary quit the United Nations migration pact in 2018. "This document goes entirely against Hungary's security interests," the Hungarian government argued.

Regarding economic cooperation, Szijjarto noted that bilateral trade exceeded 500 million U.S. dollars in 2018 and that cooperation was thriving in the field of innovative automotive industry products.

A summit was scheduled to be held in Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday with the prime ministers of the Visegrad Group, which includes Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The summit, however, collapsed after Israel's newly appointed acting Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz, said on Sunday that Poles "collaborated with the Nazis" during World War II.

On Monday morning, Poland's Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski branded the remark "shameful and racist," writing on his Twitter account that Poland considers it "utterly unacceptable."

Later on Monday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the remark and canceled the participation of his foreign minister in the summit. Morawiecki previously withdrew his own participation in response to a remark by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said that some Poles "cooperated with the Nazis."

After Poland's withdrawal from the meeting, the Czech Republic announced the summit was canceled.

Since Hungarian Prime Minister Orban and Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini were already in Israel, their Israeli host and counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, held separate bilateral meetings with them, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Enditem

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