After meeting Hungaryʼs Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to make a trip to Hungary next week. The prime ministerʼs press chief confirmed the news Thursday.
In his tweet, Bolton said he met with Szijjártó in the White House, discussing a variety of topics, including defense cooperation, energy diversity, “confronting malign Russian influence,” and NATO commitments. At the end of his tweet, he wrote that Pompeo will visit Hungary next week.
Confirming the news Thursday, the prime ministerʼs press chief said Pompeo will arrive next Monday, when he will hold a joint press conference with Szijjártó, before going on to meet with the defense minister and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Pompeoʼs visit will mark the first appearance of a U.S. secretary of state in Hungary in eight years.
Citing a U.S. official, a report in The Wall Street Journal last month claimed that Pompeoʼs visit comes as a result of Orbánʼs recent comments about Hungaryʼs relationship with Russia, and a variety of disagreements between the U.S. and Hungary, including over the Central European Universityʼs effective expulsion from the country.
“NATO was founded to repel a war of the sort few today expect, and that Hungary has sent troops near Russia’s Baltic border to deter,” commented the WSJ report. “The trouble is that U.S. officials increasingly worry about a more nebulous set of security threats that include investment by Chinese and Russian companies in sensitive areas like telecommunications, energy and banking.” These, it added, are areas Orbán considers “his domestic prerogative.”
The WSJ cited a Hungarian government source as saying that while Hungary will continue to respect NATO commitments and even increase deployments, it will resist pressure to toe the U.S. line on Russia and China.
In related news, state news agency MTI said Szijjártó discussed the opportunity to diversify Hungaryʼs gas imports with U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in Washington on Wednesday. The minister told MTI by telephone that he had asked Perry to intercede with oil and gas giant ExxonMobil with the aim of starting offshore production in Romania with Austrian partner OMV.
If Hungary can buy gas from fields in the Black Sea, it would be a significant opportunity to diversify the countryʼs gas supply, he added.
According to Szijjártó, Hungary has taken all necessary steps in the interest of reducing its dependence on gas from Russia, practically the countryʼs only foreign source of supply at present. The next step toward diversification depends on one of Hungaryʼs NATO allies and on a fellow European Union member state, he added.
It is in Hungaryʼs strategic interest for the consortium of ExxonMobil and OMV to start gas production in the Black Sea and for that gas to be made available to Hungary to buy, the minister stressed. The gas could be delivered through a pipeline Romania has already started to build, entering Hungary through an interconnector that is being made bidirectional, he added.