Szijjártó: We must stand with the Turkish government and president

July 21, 2016

“Hungary’s government strongly condemns the attempted putsch which started last night in Turkey.  Given the number of dead and manner of the putsch, it can be called an act of terror. We have solidarity with Turkey’s democratically elected government and with the Turkish president.” – Péter Szijjárto, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary

Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó held a brief press conference Saturday at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt airport, following news of the failed coup in Turkey. Szijjártó emphasized Hungary’s close ties to Turkey and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and labelled the failed putsch “an act of terrorism”.

Erdoğan’s government overcame an attempted military coup hours after its launch late Friday night. The poorly executed coup has caused some to suggest the move was an attempt by the Turkish president to solidify his grasp on power, as it appears the biggest beneficiary of the aborted coup is none other than Erdoğan himself. In the aftermath, his government has successfully fired nearly 9,000 police, arrested 6,000 military personnel and 103 generals, and suspended nearly 3,000 judges, reports The New York Times.

Erdoğan has been the subject of much criticism for his authoritarian rule over the NATO ally. Corruption and serious curbs on civil liberties have caused rifts between Turkey and its Western allies, Hungary being an important exception.

The Hungarian government’s unwavering support of Erdoğan and his government was not lost on those in attendance at Szijjártó’s press conference Saturday.

“Turkey is Hungary’s friend and strategic ally,” the minister said. “Turkey plays a leading role as Europe’s neighbor to the south. That is why everything that is happening in Turkey, from a security perspective, has an immediate effect on Europe and, within that, Hungary. Turkey is one of the key targets of the terrorism threatening Europe. At the same time, Turkey is also one of the dedicated countries in the war against terror. It is time for the Hungarian government to recognize Turkey’s fight against terror. In the fight against terror, we cooperate closely with the Turkish government — within the framework of NATO and within the framework of the international coalition fighting against Islamic State.”

Interestingly, Szijjártó made no mention of the fact that Erdoğan appeared to be using the occasion to crack down on the democratic opposition, civil society alike, and what little remains of Turkey’s independent judiciary.  Instead, he talked about Turkey’s government “maintaining control of the situation”.

An act of terror?

“Hungary’s government strongly condemns the attempted putsch which started last night in Turkey,” he said. “Because of the number of dead and manner of the putsch, we call it an act of terror. We have solidarity with Turkey’s democratically elected government and with the Turkish president. It is in the interest of Europe and Hungary for there to be stability in Turkey. In other words, it is in our interest for Turkey’s president and his government to be able to maintain control of the situation in Turkey.

“I have spoken to Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is a personal friend. The foreign minister told me that the Turkish government, the central government, had re-established control over the country and that the situation is under control. He said a well-organized but isolated part of the military organized and carried out the attempted putsch with the aim of assuming power. He also said that it was thanks to the fact that tens of thousands of people took to the streets in support of the Turkish government that the government could re-establish control.

“The strategic relationship between Turkey and the European Union cannot be negatively influenced, especially given that it is in Europe’s interest for Turkey to be stable. So, if possible, now is the time to make this cooperation even closer with Turkey’s democratically-elected government and president. Because it is now very clear that the current government and current president are the guarantors of stability. If the putschists would have taken over, like those who last night caused the hair-raising situation, then I would think the security of the European Union – and in it Hungary – would suffer. If there was ever a time to stand up for the current Turkish government and president, then it is now, and we must strengthen our cooperation with them,” Szijjártó said.