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Foreign Affairs Committee Holds Meeting To Discuss Proposal On Hungary’s Anti-ISIS Mission

By Tamás Székely // 2015.04.09.

Hungary’s parliament should approve the government’s proposal on the country’s participation in the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organisation, the foreign minister said. Joining the international mission is a duty for Hungary as the country belongs to the western community, Péter Szijjártó told a press conference after a closed session of parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Hungary received last month a formal request for contribution from the United States which is heading the international coalition. According to the timeline set before, Hungarian army commanders and experts have already visited the site where Hungary would dispatch a contingent near Erbil in northern Iraq, Szijjártó said.

The general experience at the site was that local Kurds welcomed the planned Hungarian mission and this is particularly important in a “fragile and unstable environment” such as the Middle East, the minister said. The contingent to be dispatched is planned to be composed of 110 soldiers as well as six officers who will serve at command posts, he said. About another 34 troops are planned to stand by in Hungary, he added. Szijjártó noted that Hungarian troops would carry out security and defence tasks at a training camp in Erbil, as the first foreign unit performing such tasks. The total cost of the mission should not exceed the originally planned budget of 20 billion forints (EUR 67m), he said. Szijjártó expressed hope that lawmakers would give the go-ahead to the mission already next week.

Fighting terrorism and IS in particular is an important goal for the opposition Socialists (MSZP), lawmaker Attila Mesterházy said in a statement, but also suggested that the proposed Hungarian contingent of 150 was too large and that Hungary could contribute to the international mission in some other way. The Socialists have not yet finalised their position on the mission, he added. Zsuzsanna Szelényi of left-wing Együtt (Together) party said that Hungary should cooperate with other countries at a time when their “democratic, highly developed, 21st-century world order is attacked”. Radical nationalist Jobbik lawmaker Márton Gyöngyösi said his party is concerned about the risk of terrorist attacks in Hungary, adding that eliminating that risk was a top priority. He said that the acts of Islamic State should be condemned, but “the means for Hungary to use must be carefully selected”.

Contributing to international efforts against the Islamic State terrorist organisation is a “moral and political” obligation for Hungary, Zsolt Németh, the head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said. “It cannot be said” that Hungary would face a higher risk of terrorism if it joined the international coalition, the lawmaker for ruling Fidesz party insisted. The decision on Hungary’s military involvement requires a two-thirds majority approval in parliament. If lawmakers approve the proposal, Hungary will have to conclude a bilateral agreement with Iraq.

via photo: Lajos Soós – MTI