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Ukraine crisis: Hungary won't accept more NATO troops on its soil, says foreign minister Szijjártó

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By Euronews
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Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Belgrade, Serbia, Feb. 7, 2022.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Belgrade, Serbia, Feb. 7, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Hungary will not accept further NATO troops on its soil as part of manoeuvres over the Ukraine crisis, its foreign minister has told Euronews.

The US has sent extra soldiers to Poland and Romania while Germany has bolstered troop numbers in Lithuania — NATO troops are already stationed in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as Poland.

But Péter Szijjártó said no extra troops would arrive on Hungarian soil.

"No, we have not agreed to that and we will not agree because we have already NATO's troops on the territory of the country, which is the Hungarian army and the Hungarian armed forces, [they] are in the proper shape to guarantee the security of the country. So we don't need additional troops on the territory of Hungary."

Russia has massed troops near Ukraine's border and the US has warned it is preparing to invade. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Szijjártó used the interview to urge the US, Europe and Russia to continue to talk to avoid "a worst-case scenario" over the Ukraine crisis, stressing that Central Europe will be the biggest loser if a conflict erupts.

He said the current crisis brings back memories of the Cold War and the "many decades where we suffered".

"That's why we don't want these times to come back. We ask, we urge the international community to do its best in order to avoid the Cold War to return, avoid even the psyche of the Cold War to return because we have learnt it from history, unfortunately very very clearly, that whenever there is an East-West conflict, the countries of Central Europe lose and we don't want to be losers anymore," he said.

"We have to invest in diplomacy, we have to invest in dialogue. That's why we urge the Russian Federation and our Western allies, the big countries, the strong countries, not to give up hope of peaceful settlement, to the contrary, to talk to each other because once again, I want to underline that for us, rather small Central European countries, it can be extremely dangerous if violent action take place," he added.

Washington and European capitals have warned Moscow that any military incursion into Ukraine would have "massive" consequences for Russia, including punitive economic sanctions.

But Szijjártó said he believes these types measures "do not work," pointing to the fact that Russia has been subject to Western sanctions since 2014, when it illegally annexed Crimea and started backing separatists in east Ukraine.

"If you look at the sanctions themselves, it's a failure. They don't work out. They are unsuccessful," he continued, adding that "trade between Germany and the Russian Federation has increased since the sanctions have been in place."

Those EU sanctions limit certain Russian banks and companies from accessing EU primary and secondary capital markets; ban Russian financial institutions from receiving certain forms of financial assistance and brokering; and bar the indirect import, export or transfer of all defence-related material.

The EU sanctions — which must be approved by all member states — have been regularly renewed since 2014. They were last extended in January.

"My position is that if we speak about further sanctions, it's absolutely necessary to see an honest analysis of the impacts of the sanctions which have been in place."

Szijjártó's comments echoed those of his Prime Minister.

Viktor Orban told reporters last week during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the EU sanctions have caused "more damage to Hungary than to Russia."