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Hungary mulls plans to upgrade diplomatic ties with Syria

Hungarian plans to upgrade diplomatic relations with Syria will anger influential EU members who have sought to keep their distance from the Damascus regime, according to a report by ft.com, the Financial Times online news site.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (photo: Harold Escalona / Shutterstock.com)

Budapest has for months been working on a proposal to send a chargé d’affaires back to Syria, according to diplomats in Brussels and Beirut, which would be a precursor to eventually reopening its closed embassy.

While a few European capitals have kept up diplomatic ties during the seven-year conflict, this would be the first time an EU member state has moved towards reopening a shuttered embassy in Syria.

Many EU members strongly oppose normalizing relations with Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. One European diplomat in Beirut called Hungary’s proposed move “very annoying,” ft.com reported.

Cited in a report on the BBC website bbc.com, Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a pan-European think tank with offices in seven European capitals, said that “in and of itself the Hungarian shift will not do much, but it points to the risk of a broader European unravelling which could undermine their ability to play any meaningful role going forward.” There would, he added, “be a particular question over the future of EU sanctions against Syria.”

“Hungaryʼs plans seem motivated in part by Prime Minister Viktor Orbánʼs populist approach; he has sought to portray himself as a defender of Christianity and Hungaryʼs main aid activities are directed towards Syriaʼs Christian community,” bbc.com observed.