Hungary’s Orbán meets Chinese president on surprise ‘peace mission’

Beijing, Jul. 8, (dpa/GNA) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made another unannounced trip, this time to China, and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese state media reported Monday morning.

On the heels of his surprise visit to Moscow last week, which drew ire from European leaders, Orbán wrote on X after he arrived in Beijing, “Peace mission 3.0” and shared a photo that shows him being welcomed at the airport by Chinese deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying.

At the top of the agenda during the talks between Orbán and Xi was Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. Orbán wrote in another post on X that China is a “key power” in creating the conditions for peace in the war.

During the talks, Xi stated that the international community is obliged to ensure the resumption of talks between Russia and Ukraine, Chinese state media reported.

Orbán is said to have informed Xi about his recent visits to Russia and Ukraine.

The report added that Xi appreciated Orbán’s efforts to advance a political resolution of the “Ukraine crisis.” Xi stated that China had advocated for peace talks in its own way and supported all efforts for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, the report said.

Before his China trip, Orbán had already travelled to Kiev, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In Moscow, he also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a move that caused consternation in Europe and the US.

Orbán has said that his meeting with Putin, who is pursuing a full-scale invasion and war on Ukraine, was a “peace mission.”

During a joint appearance with Putin after the talks, Orbán again called for efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine war.

Several EU officials, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, later stressed that the Hungarian leader had no official EU mandate for negotiations with Russia, and that it had nothing to do with Hungary assuming the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

Orbán, often a thorn in the side of Brussels over a range of issues, is seen as closest to Moscow among European Union leaders. Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó also travelled to China, he announced on Facebook. Originally, Szijjártó was scheduled to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Budapest on Monday.

However, the visit was cancelled at short notice due to an “unforeseen change in [Szijjártó’s] schedule.”

The German ministry said at the weekend that “a serious and honest personal conversation between the two foreign ministers would certainly have been important in light of [Orbán’s] surprising and uncoordinated trip to Moscow.”

The visit is expected to be rescheduled.

Chinese President Xi visited Hungary as part of a European trip in May. Beijing and Budapest maintain good relations, and Orbán was the only EU leader who attended the Belt and Road Forum hosted by China last October.

Hungary is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a mammoth infrastructure project that has involved China investing billions in infrastructure and granting loans to many countries of the global South, in Central Asia and also in parts of Europe.

China is Russia’s most important ally. It maintains close economic and political relations with Moscow. Therefore, Beijing is attributed with a great deal of influence over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Externally, the country likes to present itself as neutral. However, Western states repeatedly accuse China of supporting Moscow’s defence industry and thereby the war by exporting crucial technology and equipment. GNA