“Hungary’s standpoint with relation to the migration crisis is clear. The international community must finally stop encouraging waves of migration and should concentrate on how to help people return to their homes and on creating the physical, legal and security conditions for them to do so. But if international organisations continue to encourage people to emigrate, they will continue to endanger the stability of countries in the vicinity of war zones”, Mr. Szijjártó underlined.

“The international effort to help Iraq and Syria regain the territories occupied by the Islamic State terrorist organisation have been successful and 98 percent of these territories have been regained, and it has become possible for people who have fled these territories to return home. In view of its internal security, it is in Lebanon’s interests for the people it has admitted to also return home as soon as possible. And maintaining Lebanon’s stability until the refugees return home is important to Hungary because the one and a half million refugees will then not set out towards Europe”, he said. “To this end, Hungary is sending 54 soldiers to serve in the UN mission in Lebanon until the end of next year, and together with the Polish contingent they will be operating a peacekeeping company”, he announced.

Photo: Zsolt Burger/KKM

During his visit to Beirut, Mr. Szijjártó met with Minister of Economy and Trade Mansour Bteish, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. The Minister held a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart, at which he stated: “Hungary has been a Christian country for over a thousand years. We are proud of this fact, but are also aware that this imposes obligations on us. For instance, that we should take care of Christian communities around the world that are in need. And we know that Christian communities in the Middle East are in need. It would be easy to encourage them to leave the land of their birth, but instead we are trying to encourage them to stay where they have been living for centuries. We do this using financial support, for instance. And this is what we are also doing with the Christian community in Lebanon”.

“We are preparing for the European Parliament (EP) elections at the end of May with the target of European institutions, and particularly the European Parliament and the European Commission, transforming into ones that do not encourage migration, but instead help enable refugees to remain in place or return home”, he explained. “Since it highly appreciates what Lebanon has done and is doing for the refugees, Budapest regularly asks the European Union to provide more financial support to Lebanon”, the Minister said.

At the press conference, and in his statement to MTI, Mr. Szijjártó reported on the fact that Hungary has set aside a budget of one and a half million dollars for the repair and renovation of 33 Christian churches in Lebanon. “The first phase of this programme, within the framework of which 14 churches have been restored, is already complete, the churches have been recently reopened, and preparations are underway for the commencement of the second phase, in which 19 churches will be renovated. Hungary is therefore an ally to Lebanon in the preservation of Christian values, and also with relation to refugees”, the Minister said in summary.

Photo: Zsolt Burger/KKM

At the press conference, the Hungarian Foreign Minister also that a defence cooperation agreement between Hungary and Lebanon is also in preparation, according to which the parties will be providing technical assistance to each other.

Mr. Szijjártó expressed his satisfaction with relation to the fact that 50 Lebanese students are attending Hungarian universities each year thanks to the government’s scholarship programme. “Negotiations are also in progress between the two countries with relation to there once again being a direct air passenger service between Beirut and Budapest”, he added.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil thanked Hungary for the aid provided towards the renovation of churches and expressed his hope that as many countries as possible will follow Hungary’s example and help Lebanese Christians. He pointed out that Christians are still in significant danger, particularly in the Middle East and other parts of Asia, citing the recent Sri Lanka bombings as an example. “It is precisely for this reason that providing assistance to Lebanon is vital in the interests of enabling it to help the Christian communities living in the country, thus also contributing to them not being forced to leave their homeland”, he stated.