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White House says Orbán trip to Moscow will not advance peace for Ukraine

The Biden administration on Friday joined a chorus of criticism against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying it would do nothing to end the war.

“We’re concerned that Prime Minister Orban would choose to take this trip to Moscow, which will neither advance the cause of peace, nor will it promote Ukrainian sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” a senior Biden administration official said on a call with reporters, previewing the NATO summit that will take place in Washington next week.

“Look, at the end of the day, we believe that Russia could end this war today by ceasing its aggression against Ukraine.”

At the NATO summit, set to take place July 9-11, allies are expected to lay out new financial and military commitments for Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia since Putin launched a full-scale invasion against the country in February 2022.

Other summit deliverables include the alliance announcing new NATO commitments to Ukraine to deepen ties and to lay the groundwork for Kyiv to eventually join the alliance. 

“When there is consensus among the 32 allies for Ukraine to join the Alliance, Ukraine is ready, truly ready on day one, to plug and play with the rest of the alliance,” the official said.

The White House in criticizing the trip is joining other allies that have denounced Orbán’s visit to Moscow, which he billed as a chance to “open the channels of direct communication and start a dialogue on the shortest road to peace.”

While Hungary holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, top European officials were quick to point out that Orbán does not hold a mandate to discuss foreign affairs on behalf of the 27-member bloc. 

“In Moscow, Viktor Orbán in no way represents the EU or the EU’s positions. He is exploiting the EU presidency position to sow confusion,” Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who will serve as the EU’s next foreign policy chief, posted on social platform X

“The EU is united, clearly behind Ukraine and against Russian aggression.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated EU support for Ukraine. 

“Viktor Orbán is visiting Putin as Hungarian Prime Minister. In foreign policy, the European Council is represented by Charles Michel,” the German leader said.  

“The EU’s position is very clear: we condemn the Russian war of aggression. Ukraine can rely on our support.”

Before traveling to Moscow, Orbán had met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, saying that he was pitching a “a deadline-bound ceasefire, that could provide an opportunity to speed up peace negotiations.”

Zelensky welcomed Orbán’s visit as “a clear signal to all of us of the importance of unity in Europe and taking collective steps.”

After meetings in Moscow, Putin put out a statement that talks with Orbán were “quite intense” and that Russia and Hungary “continue cooperating in a number of areas, primarily the energy sector.”

International sanctions aimed at supporting Ukraine have sought to choke off Russian profits from its exports of oil and gas. 

Putin called for Russia’s terms for ending the war, which include a commitment for Ukraine not to join NATO and for Russia to maintain control over territory it occupies in Ukraine, terms that are non-starters for Kyiv. 

“We would like to extend our gratitude to the [Hungarian] Prime Minister for visiting Moscow, which we regard as an attempt to resume dialogue and give it a boost,” Putin said in the statement. 

Source: The Hill

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