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Orbán welcomes Erdoğan in Budapest

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Budapest Monday, discussing a variety of topics and lauding cooperation between the two countries at a press conference, where the Turkish leader blamed the Saudis for the recent disappearance of a journalist in Istanbul.

Erdogan (left) at the press conference with Orbán (photo by Gergely Botár/kormany.hu).

After meeting, the two leaders held a joint press conference in the Parliament building covering a wide array of topics. Orbán emphasized how the Turkish governmentʼs stability is key in preventing the overland migration threat to Hungary, national news agency MTI reported.

The Hungarian prime minister recognized that, as a host country, Turkey takes in and provides for millions of people fleeing from neighboring countries, official government website kormany.hu reported, adding that Orbán had thanked the Turkish president for fully honoring the migrant agreement concluded with the EU, which is also a precondition for security in Europe.

Orbán also mentioned that Hungary and Turkey are set to establish closer defense cooperation.

"In Turkey, the terrorism threat is higher than in Hungary, therefore it is important for Turkey as well to have Hungary cooperating in this field," the Hungarian leader was cited as saying by news site Index.

Orbán noted that the level of military cooperation between the two countries has so far been low, but this will now change, and the intention is to develop intensive cooperation in the arms industry, kormany.hu reported.

Economic ties strengthening

According to MTI, Orbán said that while the earlier goal of raising bilateral trade between the two countries to USD 5 billion has not yet been realized, recent growth suggests it is not unrealistic. To promote partnerships between Hungarian and Turkish companies, Hungaryʼs Eximbank has established a USD 420 million credit line, he added.

The two leaders also criticized the European Unionʼs stance on Turkey, with Orbán calling for an "appropriate form of cooperation," saying that "what weʼre doing now is dishonest," in reference to the accession talks with Turkey.

Orbán stressed that so far Hungary has supported Turkey, and will continue to do so in the future, according to kormany.hu. He was cited as saying that "Europe must decide what it wants, as if the continent truly intends to become a political player with major global influence, it must find the right form of cooperation with Turkey."

Erdoğan also voiced his dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in the talks, according to current affairs news site hvg.hu, saying that the EU "shouldnʼt tire us needlessly," that Turkey has reached the end of its patience, and that the EU should decide whether or not they are going to let Turkey enter the union.

Missing journalist

The Turkish president was also asked at the press conference about Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. According to U.S. news channel CNN, Erdoğan asserted that it is up to Saudi Arabia to prove that the Washington Post writer actually left the consulate.

"He entered the general consulate himself and if he has entered by himself and if he did not exit it, of course this should be proven by the general consulate," said Erdoğan, who described the journalist as a "friend" and vowed that he would personally "chase" the investigation into his disappearance.

Four days after Khashoggi vanished, unnamed Turkish officials told The Washington Post and Reuters that the journalist was killed inside the consulate, CNN recalled, adding that the officials have so far provided no evidence or details of how they arrived at this conclusion.

CNN noted that the journalistʼs disappearance could have serious implications for what it described as the "precarious" relationship between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, already opposed over the blockade by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states against Qatar.

On another matter, Hungarian news site origo.hu reported that Erdoğan expressed gratitude for the preservation of the Tomb of Gül Baba in Budapest, saying it is symbolic of the cooperative relationship between the two nations. As reported earlier, the Turkish leader is due to attend the opening ceremony of the renovated tomb of the 16th century Ottoman poet during his visit.