Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that he would seek deeper ties with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, during his second visit to the country within four months.
Hungary and Turkey are the only holdouts in NATO to not have ratified Sweden's bid to join the defense alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hungary has still not voted to approve Sweden’s entry into NATO, aligning itself with Turkey, which had long blocked Stockholm's membership and has been stalling the process even after Erdogan lifted his veto in June.
Earlier this month, Erdogan made Turkey’s ratification of Sweden's NATO bid conditional on the US Congress “simultaneously” approving Ankara's request for F-16 fighter jets.
But the two leaders did not comment on the issue in an address to reporters after their meeting.
NATO enlargement was discussed during Erdogan's visit, according to Hungarian President Katalin Novak, who also met the Turkish leader.
Erdogan's visit coincides with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“We wish to further strengthen our ties in areas such as defense and energy, where we already have fruitful cooperation,” Erdogan said, adding that the two countries aimed to increase their trade volume to $6 billion from $4 billion currently.
- Horse versus car -
Erdogan was received with military honors in Budapest's historic Heroes’ Square before heading into a meeting with Novak and then with Orban.
Orban presented Erdogan with the gift of a Nonius horse – though the Turkish leader fell off a horse in 2003.
“The gift from one equestrian nation to another,” Orban wrote on Facebook.
In return, Orban was gifted with an electric car made in Turkey, a photo of which he posted on X.
“The best deal I've ever made! For one horsepower, I got 435. Welcome to Hungary President Erdogan!” he wrote.
During the press conference, Orban said his country was “looking for allies with whom we can win.”
“The big plan is that Turks and Hungarians will be victorious together in the 21st century,” he said.
The two leaders signed a joint political declaration moving their relations to an “advanced strategic partnership level,” which Orban described as “the expression of the closest, friendly, fraternal and political cooperation.”
In recent years, Hungary has pursued a policy of opening up to the east, not only toward Russia but also toward China and central Asian countries.
The central European country of close to 10 million people is the only EU member state that has maintained close ties to the Kremlin since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
On Sweden's NATO membership, Budapest has chided Stockholm over its “open hostile attitude,” accusing Swedish representatives of being “repeatedly keen to bash Hungary” on rule-of-law issues.
Orban told parliament in September that ratifying Sweden's NATO bid was not “urgent.” In the past, Orban has repeatedly stated that Hungary supports Sweden's bid, claiming that the approval was merely a “technicality.”
On Dec. 14, Orban was the only one of the EU’s 27 leaders to vote against providing Ukraine with $55 billion in aid – effectively blocking it.
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