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Orban reaffirms ‘support’ of Sweden’s NATO bid in Stoltenberg call

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday said he reaffirmed in a phone call with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg his “support” for Sweden’s membership to the security alliance. Budapest remains the last holdout to ratify Stockholm’s bid to join NATO. “I reaffirmed that the Hungarian government supports the NATO membership of Sweden,” Orban wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I also stressed that we will continue to urge the Hungarian National Assembly to vote in favour of Sweden’s accession and conclude the ratification at the first possible opportunity,” he added. On Tuesday, Orban sent a letter to his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson inviting him to Budapest to discuss the bid “at your earliest convenience”. Last week, Hungary criticised Sweden for not taking steps to strengthen bilateral relations. Hungary has often denounced what it called Sweden’s “openly hostile attitude”, accusing Swedish representatives of being “repeatedly keen to bash Hungary” on rule-of-law issues. Stoltenberg welcomed the “good call” with Orban. “I welcome the clear support of the Prime Minister and his government for Sweden’s NATO membership. I look forward to the ratification as soon as parliament reconvenes,” he wrote on X. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene in mid-February. Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday ratified Sweden’s NATO membership after more than a year of delays that upset Western efforts to show resolve in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to sign Sweden’s ratification document and conclude Ankara’s role in the protracted saga in the coming days. Orban and Erdogan have maintained good rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the Ukraine war. NATO leaders had feared that the Kremlin was trying to use the two mercurial leaders to sow divisions in the West. Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland became a member last April.

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