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Hungary’s interests in Turkey

August 27th, 2016

Commenting on Hungarian official statements on Turkey, a left-wing columnist thinks that there is little leeway for Hungary to pursue its own strategic interests in the complex geopolitical situation of the Middle East.

On his visit to Ankara on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Hungary supports President Erdoğan’s efforts to restore stability in Turkey. Hungary and Europe need a strong Turkey that is able to control migration, he added, and thus any destabilization of this NATO member state is against the interests of Europe. Mr Szijjártó labeled the attempted coup against President Erdoğan a terrorist act, and said that Hungary acknowledges the right of the democratically elected government to restore peace. On the same day, PM Orbán told a Brazilian daily that Hungary supports President Erdoğan’s efforts to restore stability, but he added that the EU cannot offer visa free travel to Turkey.

Hungarian diplomats like other politicians have divergent and complex interests in Turkey, Gábor Horváth writes in Népszabadság. The left-wing columnist suggests that the Hungarian government’s symbolic endorsement of President Erdoğan’s purges is unlikely to serve Hungary’s strategic interests in Turkey and its neighbourhood. Hungary’s main concern in the region is the concession the MOL oil company has in Iraqi Kurdistan, and thus Hungary needs to maintain good relations with the Kurds as well, Horváth points out. At the same time, Hungary, like the rest of Europe, needs Turkey to continue to keep migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia out of the continent, Horváth adds. In this complex geopolitical constellation, Hungary has little elbow room to pursue its own strategy, Horváth concludes and advises the government to follow the big actors, including the EU and the US.

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