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Hungary PM meets with Xi Jinping during surprise China visit; Russia-Ukraine on agenda

Hungary PM Viktor Orban (left) with Chinese President Xi Jinping (Photo credit: @PM_ViktorOrban)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban paid a surprise “peace visit” to Beijing and met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing.

“China is a key power in creating the conditions for peace in the Russia-Ukraine war,” Orban posted on the social media platform X after his meeting with the Chinese President on Monday

“This is why I came to meet with President Xi in Beijing, just two months after his official visit to Budapest,” said the leader of Hungary, which assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-member European Union council earlier this month.

In a video he posted from a Beijing airport tarmac on Monday on X, Orban hailed China as the only world power “clearly committed to peace”. He also posted a photograph and captioned it “Peace mission 3.0”.

Orban’s China visit follows his visits to Russia and Ukraine last week to discuss the prospects for a peaceful settlement in the conflict between the two countries that began in February 2022.

US daily The Washington Post noted that even as Xi embraced Orban in China’s capital city, Russian missiles hit Kyiv, Dnipro and other Ukrainian cities on Monday -killing at least 31 people, including two at a children’s hospital in Kyiv.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was cited by TASS news agency that Orban has displayed his “political will for dialogue.”

“We take it very, very positively. We believe it can be very useful,” the Kremlin official was cited as saying.

Orban visited Kiev and Moscow on July 2 and 5 and he proposed first to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and then to Russian leader Vladimir Putin to consider the prospect of a ceasefire and preparations for peace talks, Russian state media reported.

Addressing a press conference later Putin said that Russia was not in favour of a ceasefire, as Kiev could use this to its advantage. Instead, he advocated for a complete end to the conflict in Ukraine, TASS reported.

The White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Orban’s visit “will not advance the cause of peace and is counterproductive to promoting Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.”

Responding to a question during a briefing press briefing on July 8 US State department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US found the visits to Keiv and Moscow by Orban as “concerning”

“Look, before he traveled to Russia, you did see the Hungarian prime minister travel to Ukraine. We thought that was an important thing for him to do. We thought that was a productive step. And we would welcome, of course, actual diplomacy with Russia to make it clear to Russia that they need to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, that they need to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but that is not at all what this visit appears to have been,” Miller said.

As per a report in the Al Jazeera, the Hungarian prime minister broadly opposes Western military aid to Ukraine and has blocked, delayed or watered down EU efforts to assist Kyiv and impose sanctions on Moscow over its invasion.

Orban is next headed to Washington, DC, to attend a summit of NATO leaders, which will discuss ways to assure Ukraine of the alliance’s continued support.