• Monday, Mar 01, 2021
  • Last Update : 09:22 pm

Ukraine, Hungary seek to ease tensions

  • Published at 09:18 pm January 27th, 2021
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba shakes hands with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 25, 2020 AFP

Budapest has accused Ukraine of hampering the cultural development of the Hungarian diaspora when Kiev adopted a controversial language law in 2017

Ukraine and Hungary on Wednesday sought to mend their badly strained ties, with the EU member state saying it wanted to have "good relations" with Kiev.

"We can stop the deterioration of our relationship and put it back on the right path," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters in the Ukraine capital Kiev after talks with his counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

"We would like to go back to ties of mutual respect. It's easier to have good relations than bad ones," he said in remarks translated into Ukrainian.

In recent years, ties between Ukraine and Hungary have been marred by a series of diplomatic spats, with Budapest threatening to block Kiev's rapprochement with the European Union and Nato.

A major conflict erupted between the two countries in 2017 when Kiev adopted a controversial law seeking to make it obligatory for school lessons to be held in Ukrainian. 

Budapest has accused Ukraine of hampering the cultural development of the Hungarian diaspora. Ukraine denies the language law is discriminatory.

Numbering more than 100,000, ethnic Hungarians constitute the largest minority group in Transcarpathia, a western Ukrainian region behind the Carpathian Mountains that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Since 2014 Kiev has been fighting against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and the rights of ethnic minorities remain a hot-button issue in the country.

On Wednesday, Kuleba condemned "any manifestation of disrespect towards the Hungarian community in Ukraine" but also stressed that "any anti-Ukrainian rhetoric in certain circles in Hungary" was unacceptable.

"There is no reason to assert that Ukrainian Hungarians are prone to separatism, just as there are no grounds to believe that the Ukrainian state wants to harm the Hungarians in Transcarpathia," Kuleba said.

Last October Kiev accused Budapest of meddling in its internal affairs as Szijjarto called on ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine to back a pro-Hungarian party in local elections.

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