Hungary: Urgent Ukraine peace talks needed at SPIEF 2024

Every day of hostilities makes a major escalation more likely, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has warned

Peace talks must start right now to end the Ukraine conflict, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told journalists on Thursday on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Russia.

The minister is attending the SPIEF, a major economic forum, to discuss energy cooperation between Hungary and Russia, among other things. Hungary differs from the majority of EU and NATO members in opposing the continued arming of Ukraine.

Szijjarto said Budapest’s position is driven by the fact that as long as hostilities continue, the risk of a major escalation will grow “each day.”

“Peace needs to be achieved as soon as possible. Peace talks need to start, and a ceasefire has to be achieved now,” he was quoted as saying.

”It is absolutely obvious that the war cannot be resolved with arms,” he added. “The sooner negotiations start, the fewer people will die.”

Next week Switzerland is hosting an international conference that it organized on Kiev’s behalf, where the Ukrainian government will promote its so-called “peace formula” – which Moscow says amounts to a demand for capitulation. China has said it will not participate in the summit because Russia has been excluded at Kiev’s behest.

Szijjarto said Hungary likewise considered this fact regrettable, but chose to attend “because we participate in all events that have peace on the agenda.” He will be representing Budapest in Switzerland, although he expects no breakthrough due to Russia’s absence.

The diplomat declined to comment on Moscow’s that Vladimir Zelensky has been usurping power in Ukraine, since his presidential term expired last month.

”Without Russian energy, we will not be able to provide for the country,” he said. “This is not a question of politics or ideology. So we need to continue energy cooperation in Russia. And, frankly, I see no reason to do otherwise.”

The EU declared decoupling from the Russian economy to be one of its priorities after Russia began its special military operation in 2022. Hungary argues the attempt to punish Moscow by replacing its natural gas with more expensive sources of energy has dealt a major blow to members of the bloc and thus was shortsighted.