Hungary and Turkey are important partners and allies in several fields, from trade to economy to culture and to defence issues – this was what Minister of Defence Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky stated in Ankara after having a discussion with Turkish Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar on Monday, 24 October. The ministers signed a letter of intent on creating the legal basis for future military cooperation between the two countries.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky highlighted that the high-level relations between the two countries are regular and based on mutual trust. According to the minister of defence, both countries are known for their pro-peace position on the war in Ukraine, and take every opportunity – including the present one in Ankara – to call for ceasefire and the immediate start of peace talks.
“We agree with our Turkish friends on this point, and highly appreciate the efforts they are making in the interest of peace, even in an intermediary role between the warring sides”, said the minister of defence.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky pointed out that Turkey also provides humanitarian aid, whereas, through launching the largest-scale humanitarian program in its history, Hungary is helping Ukraine and those fleeing the war. The minister of defence agreed with the Turkish minister of national defence that besides the war, attention should also be given to “NATO’s 360-degree approach to respond to threats emanating from all directions”. He added that Turkey leads the way in the fight against terrorism, and both nations are equally committed and esteemed members of NATO.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky and Hulusi Akar also agreed on the importance of stability in the Western Balkans. In connection with this, the minister of defence said that Hungary is present with a military force in NATO’s largest land mission KFOR, which was directed until recently by a Hungarian commander; and, Turkey is planning to take over its command from Italy one year from now. The two countries’ armed forces cooperate in distinguished fields. Almost immediately after the start of the war in Ukraine, Hungary set up an enhanced Vigilance Activity Battle Group (eVA BG) to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, and Turkey also contributes troops to this unit. Besides, Turkey is also involved in the running of the Székesfehérvár-based Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C), which is embedded in the NATO Command Structure.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky emphasized that since 2017, Hungary has been implementing one of the largest-scale armed forces development programs in its history. As part of this program, obsolete technology is being replaced with NATO-compatible, modern military equipment. The minister added that in this process, Hungary also counts on the products of the Turkish defence industry; by way of example, he mentioned that the Gidrán armored combat vehicle is based on a Turkish type. Ten of these vehicles are already in service with the Hungarian Defence Forces, and a batch of another 40 is scheduled for assembly in Hungary.
The minister of defence also said that the historical relationship between the two countries is underscored by the unveiling of a WWI memorial to soldiers serving with the army of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy on Tuesday, the second day of the visit, as well as the cultural memorial year to be organized in 2024, the anniversary of 100 years of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Turkey.