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Orban invites Swedish PM to discuss NATO accession

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday invited his Swedish counterpart to Budapest to discuss the Nordic country’s NATO accession bid, as Turkey looked set to approve membership, leaving Hungary as the last holdout. Turkey’s parliament opened a debate on Sweden’s membership of NATO on Tuesday. Lawmakers were expected to overwhelmingly approve the Nordic nation’s bid after it won the public backing of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This leaves Hungary to give approval, with Orban demanding “respect” from the Nordic country, a fellow European Union member. In a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Orban said that “a more intensive political dialogue could contribute to reinforcing the mutual trust” between the two countries, allowing them to “further strengthen our political and security arrangements”. “I invite you to visit Hungary at your earliest convenience to exchange views on all issues of common interest,” Orban wrote in the letter seen by AFP. – Open to ‘discussions’ – On X, the former Twitter, Orban said he had invited Kristersson to Hungary “to negotiate” on Sweden’s NATO accession. Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billstrom replied however that there was “no reason to negotiate” with Hungary though Sweden was open to discussions. “The main thing is that this letter does not talk about negotiations, but about discussions, which is of course what we want,” he said. “I make a difference between what is written on Twitter and what is written in the letter. The letter is the official communication from Budapest to our government,” he added. 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. Last week, Hungary criticised Sweden for not taking steps to strengthen bilateral relations. Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, on Thursday suggested the Swedish government “should get in touch, ask what concerns the Hungarian parliament has and what they can do about it”. – ‘Unnecessary charade’ – Hungary has repeatedly insisted it supports Sweden’s bid but has continuously delayed arranging a vote in parliament to ratify the bid. “To put it in a nutshell: they are asking us for a blood pact without being willing to make any gestures in return,” Matyas Kohan from Hungary’s pro-government Mandiner magazine wrote. Hungary’s opposition has been pressing the government to schedule a vote. The Hungarian Socialist Party on Tuesday asked Orban “to stop this stupid, harmful and unnecessary charade”. Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland became a member last April. Orban and Erdogan have maintained a good rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the Ukraine war. NATO leaders had feared that the Kremlin was trying to use Orban and Erdogan to seed divisions in the West. The bloc’s commanders have cast the expansion as a show of Western resolve in the face of Russian aggression.

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