Hungary supports bid for Ukraine to become EU member, says minister

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Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto takes part in the European Union foreign ministers meeting, in Luxembourg, June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

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BUDAPEST, March 1 (Reuters) - Hungary is supporting an initiative by eight European Union leaders to start membership talks with Ukraine, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told an online news briefing on Tuesday.

"Hungary backs this initiative and we urge Brussels to put the issue on the agenda," Szijjarto said, referring to a proposal by the presidents of three Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Slovenia. read more

The presidents of the eight central and eastern European nations called on EU member states to immediately grant Ukraine a EU candidate country status and open membership talks according to an open letter published on Monday. read more

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"The Hungarian people did not want this war, Hungarians want peace and we are doing all we can to ensure that peace is restored as soon as possible," Szijjarto said, urging talks between Russia and Ukraine to resolve the standoff.

Szijjarto expressed solidarity with Ukraine, its eastern neighbour and home to a large ethnic Hungarian community, saying Hungary backed Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

While Hungary was providing humanitarian support to refugees fleeing the conflict, Szijjarto said on Monday said the country would not allow lethal weapons to transit its territory. read more

Hungarian police said on Monday that 62,736 refugees had arrived in Hungary from Ukraine since the start of the invasion. Most of them are planning to move on to Western Europe.

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Reporting by Anita Komuves and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Edmund Blair

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