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.
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.