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Hungary Sets Condition For Ukraine's Participation In NATO Meeting

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on November 19 that Budapest will continue to block meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at a ministerial level, amid a diplomatic spat between the two neighbors.

However, Szijjarto also said that his country would give its consent to the Ukrainian foreign minister attending a NATO foreign ministers' meeting scheduled for next month if Georgia's top diplomat also participates.

Relations between Hungary and its eastern neighbor began deteriorating last year after a language bill was approved by Kyiv that Budapest said limited ethnic Hungarians' rights to receive education in their mother tongue.

Since March 2017, Hungary has blocked all the meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission -- the key format for bilateral cooperation between Kyiv and the Western military alliance -- at all levels above that of ambassadors.

"We cannot lift our veto when it comes to the NATO-Ukraine Commission meetings because there was no forward progress," Szijjarto told RFE/RL in Brussels.

Szijjarto also said that Hungary would not oppose inviting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin to NATO’s ministerial meeting set for December 4-5 in Brussels if his Georgian counterpart also attends.

At the NATO summit in July, the alliance created a special format in which the presidents of both Georgia and Ukraine were invited in order not to exclude Kyiv from the meeting.

The diplomatic spat between Hungary and Ukraine escalated in September, when an undercover video emerged that appeared to show a Hungarian diplomat in Ukraine handing out passports to ethnic Hungarians.

Kyiv responded by expelling the Hungarian consul in Transcarpathia, prompting Budapest in turn to expel a Ukrainian consul in Hungary.

In October, Budapest summoned Kyiv's ambassador to protest what it called a "death list" targeting ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine as well as military movements on their common border.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.