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Yermak: Kyiv, Budapest take 'powerful step' toward meeting between Zelensky, Orban

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk and Dinara Khalilova January 29, 2024 12:38 PM 2 min read
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto (L), Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and presidential office head Andriy Yermak (R) at a meeting in Uzhhorod on Jan. 29, 2024. (Office of the President)
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Editor's note: This story is being updated.

Negotiations with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto proved the mutual desire of Kyiv and Budapest to hold a bilateral meeting of the two countries' leaders, Ukraine's Presidential Office head Andriy Yermak said on Jan. 29, as cited by European Pravda.

"We have taken a very powerful step toward this meeting today. Of course, we are all interested in this meeting being successful and opening a new page in our relations," Yermak told reporters.

Potential dates for the meeting between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban were not discussed, but both sides hope it will take place "as soon as possible," according to Yermak.

Szijjarto arrived in the western Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod on Jan. 29 for bilateral talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and Yermak.

The president's office said that a "frank and constructive dialogue is expected." Before the meeting began, Szijjarto paid tribute to fallen Ukrainian soldiers, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry shared.

Hungary and Ukraine have had a contentious relationship that has worsened since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has maintained close ties with Russia, bucking the united front that the EU has tried to present in support of Ukraine.

Orban has opposed the launch of Ukraine's EU accession negotiations, and blocked the passage of a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package for Ukraine in December. EU leaders are set to meet on Feb. 1 to vote on the package again.

The meeting in Uzhhorod was first announced earlier in January. One of the potential items to discuss was a possible visit by Orban to Ukraine, which would be his first trip to the country since 2010.

Orban and President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke briefly during the inauguration ceremony for Argentine President Javier Milei on Dec. 10, in a conversation that Zelensky described as “frank."

In the lead-up to Szijjarto's visit, the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet, considered to be closely affiliated with Orban, published an article condemning the state of Ukraine's press freedom.

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