The 26 Hungarian citizens rescued from Afghanistan arrived by plane in Frankfurt early on Thursday, foreign ministry state secretary Levente Magyar said.
The Hungarians are safe and they are expected to arrive in Budapest in several groups during the day on Thursday, he said.
Aircraft to rescue further Hungarian civilians and Afghans that earlier helped Hungarian troops in the country took off from Hungary early on Thursday, Magyar said. These flights are planned to travel to Kabul through Uzbekistan, he added.
“It wasn’t easy to organise the rescue, as it is not just Kabul where conditions are chaotic,” Magyar said. “Half the world is crowding the Central Asian airspace, scrambling to evacuate their citizens.”
Magyar said Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had personally reached out to the Uzbek deputy prime minister for the Hungarian planes to be given special permission to pass through Uzbekistan’s airspace and refuel.
He said it was uncertain what sort of conditions the Hungarian planes will be faced with in Kabul and how fast they can take on their passengers, but said the government would do everything to make sure that the planes can bring people back to Hungary.
Meanwhile, Magyar emphasised that Hungary would not take part in any kind of redistribution of Afghan refugees. “Our position is rock solid: no one can enter Hungary without official approval, and we will only take in those Afghan citizens who had helped the Hungarian troops in some way over the past several years,” the state secretary said.
In response to a question, Magyar said rescue operations could be carried out over several weeks but it was most important to evacuate those stranded there as quickly as possible.
It was also uncertain, he said, whether the Afghan civilians who have been told that they could leave would make it to the Kabul airport. Not even all the Hungarians in the country have made it there yet, he added.
Meanwhile, he said the Afghan citizens who will board the Hungarian planes had undergone national security screenings.
Featured photo illustration by MTI/AP/dpa