Hungarian President Katalin Novák met her Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on Friday, as part of her four-day official visit to Iraq. “We just had a historic meeting with Abdul Latif Rashid, President of Iraq, as no Hungarian President has ever visited Baghdad before. We both agreed that international terrorism is our common enemy and we condemn all of its forms. Hungary’s commitment is shown not only in words, but also in deeds, as Hungarian military forces participate in the fight against the Islamic State,” Novák said in an English-language post on Facebook.
The two presidents discussed the Hungarian government’s Hungary Helps aid programme designed to support the most vulnerable groups of society including children, women and persecuted Christians, Novák’s office said in a statement. “We firmly believe that help must be provided where trouble emerges instead of bringing troubled people to Europe,” the office quoted her as saying.
Novák discussed with the Iraqi president the Russian-Ukrainian war, and they were in agreement that the sides should make peace as soon as possible. The Hungarian president afterwards travelled on to Tel Skuf where she participated in a community prayer for peace. Novák also visited a kindergarten in the town in northern Iraq where Hungary has helped rebuild several residential houses, schools and a church destroyed by ISIS. Later on, Novák visited Alqosh and met Lara Yussif Zara, the mayor.
Accompanying Novak, Tristan Azbej, the foreign ministry’s state secretary for aiding persecuted Christians and the coordinator of the Hungary Helps scheme, told public media that “due to our Christian identity, we stand up for persecuted Christians, the most persecuted religious community in the world, with 300 million of its followers suffering persecution as a result of their beliefs”. He noted that in Tel Skuf that Hungary has provided a humanitarian emergency aid to the town and contributed to rebuilding 900 residential houses allowing nearly 1,000 families return to their homes.
Later, in Erbil, President Katalin Novák met Hungarian troops serving there and told them Hungarians wanted peace in their homeland and on their borders. On the visit to the base in Iraqi Kurdistan, where she was received by contingent commander Gábor Hraska, Novák “conveyed the respect and thanks of the Hungarian people”, and warned of the possible escalation of the 10 month war in Ukraine. Hungary needs its troops to maintain and preserve peace, she said. Further, Hungary needs experienced soldiers who have useful practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge for the protection of the homeland, she said. International terrorism is another common enemy, she said. “You are fighting against international terrorism here, in Kurdistan.” Tamás Vargha, a state secretary of the defence ministry, also greeted the troops.
The president and Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, inaugurated the Meltho International School on Saturday. “We Hungarians are a people of action,” Novák said, “and now we are here to support you and your communities.” Hungary exercises humility in foreign relations, Novák said. “We are respectful and do not lecture others. We want to understand and get to know our partners,” she said. Hungary also sees democracy as a priority, and condemns all forms of violence and terrorism, she added. The Hungary Helps programme embodies the commitment to helping local communities, “facing challenges where they arise rather than forcing people and communities to leave their homelands”, she said. The newly inaugurated school will hopefully contribute to the development necessary to maintain a strong community, she said. “As the first female president of my country, I hope that opening this school will also contribute to strengthening the role of women,” she added.
Barzani thanked Hungary’s help and “Christian brotherliness” in “investing in the future of the people of our region”, and thanked Novák for her visit. Novák also met Yazidi women, assault survivors at the hands of the Islamic State. “Yazidi women who were abducted and assaulted along with thousands of others by the Islamic State solely because of their religious faith, have shared heart-breaking stories with me. Hungary will help in that situation too, through the Hungary Helps programme,” she said on Facebook.