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Hungarian and Turkish leaders to meet as bilateral relations strengthen


Hungarian and Turkish leaders to meet as bilateral relations strengthen

orban erdogan terkep 1
Photo: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Hungary today for talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which are likely to focus on Syria.

Hungary has defended Turkey’s actions in Syria, a position that is primarily motivated by its own interests—it wants Turkey to resettle the two million refugees it currently houses in Syria, rather than allow them passage to Europe. However, its stance is also likely to facilitate a warming in ties between the two countries. A close relationship with Hungary would give Turkey a rare ally in Europe, which it could use to push its interests.

Erdogan could leverage the relationship to boost his appeal for the EU to help fund Turkey’s refugee resettlement plans in Syria. The bloc’s western members have staunchly refused any financial assistance so far, primarily because they fear forced resettlement would be a violation of human rights.

However, Turkey’s suggestion that it could send captured Islamic State fighters in northern Syria—many of which hail from Europe—back to their home countries gives it considerable leverage. That is close to the worst outcome for Europe, so negotiating financial assistance of the resettlement plan is possible. With Hungary holding the ears of both Ankara and Brussels, it could use such a scenario to enhance its own importance.

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