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Hungary opens embassy office, inks cooperation docs

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Cambodian foreign minister Prak Sokhonn (centre) and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto (left). Heng Chivoan

Hungary opens embassy office, inks cooperation docs

Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto on Tuesday signed three bilateral cooperation documents with Cambodia. The documents – which include cooperation on water management, agriculture, and air services – were inked as Szijjarto officially opened Office of Hungary Embassy in Phnom Penh during his official visit.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn said Szijjarto’s visit during the Covid-19 pandemic reflect Hungary’s strong commitment to strengthening ties and boosting cooperation between the two countries. Cambodia has the same commitment, Sokhonn said.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen’s two visits to Budapest and the state visit of Hungarian President Janos Ader last year, [and] now the official opening of Office of the Embassy of Hungary in Phnom Penh are all testimony to this shared commitment,” Sokhonn said.

He said both countries have always stood on the legal principles enshrined in the Charter of the UN and hold strong positions in promoting multilateralism based on sovereignty.

“Hungary is one of Cambodia’s close friends. Hungary extended assistance and support to Cambodia when the country needed help after emerging from the ashes of the Khmer Rouge regime. Hungary’s peacekeepers served under the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia,” he said.

Sokhonn also thanked Hungary for supporting Cambodia before the EU withdrew 20 per cent of its “Everything But Arms” scheme in February.

“Hungary’s position on the EBA withdrawal process is another concrete example of a friend who understands us well and dares to raise a voice of support for fair treatment and ensure that Cambodia’s march toward peaceful democracy and sustainable development continues unimpeded,” he said.

Sokhonn said both countries are preparing for the visit of King Norodom Sihamoni to Hungary, which is expected to take place in the second half of 2021 or early 2022 and will mark the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Szijjarto also met Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon to discuss agriculture cooperation and relevant sectors.

Cambodia has exported 1,839 tonnes of rice and 118 tonnes of tobacco to Hungary this year. Szijjarto said although this was a small amount, the volume would increase when a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) goes into effect.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries began on September 20, 1956 after Hungary was invaded by the Soviet Union, but were interrupted during the Khmer Rouge regime. Relations resumed in 1979 and Hungary extended assistance to assist with political stability and development, according to the Council of Ministers.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hai said Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Hungary to strengthen ties while lobbying the EU member state to thwart the EBA withdrawal.

“It is good for Cambodia to have strong ties with another EU member. It would be too high an expectation, however, to think those ties were doing a lot of good for Cambodia on the international stage, especially at a time when Hungary has strained relations with the EU over its non-compliance with the EU’s rule of law,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Szijjarto’s visit upgrades the two countries’ cooperation to the next level.

“Hungary’s support for Cambodia is a spiritual success. It showed the EU Commission’s decision to suspend the EBA for Cambodia was not unanimously accepted among member states. It was made only by some members,” he said.

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