Hungary FM to meet a top US diplomat amid visa ban row
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto will meet a top American top diplomat Tuesday, only days after visa bans were slapped on several Hungarian officials accused of corruption, US officials said, AFP reports.
Szijjarto will meet with US Assistant Secretary for Europe Victoria Nuland at the State Department, press office director Jeff Rathke told AFP.
Washington had exercised its "authority to deny visas to current or former government officials who have engaged in public official corruption," spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed, without specifying who had been barred from entering the country.
"Hungary’s a close friend, (and) ally. We have an ongoing dialogue with its government about the democratic principles addressing corruption," she added.
Last month Hungary summoned the US charge d'affaires in Budapest to the foreign ministry to protest criticism by US President Barack Obama, after he denounced Budapest for trying to muzzle civil society groups.
Since taking office in 2010, right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has regularly clashed with both the EU and the US over charges he is taking Hungary down an authoritarian path.
But the country is also a NATO ally, and Hungarian and US soldiers took part in joint military exercises earlier this month, to reinforce the US message of military readiness in NATO countries amid the East-West standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
US charge d'affaires in Budapest, Andre Goodfriend, told reporters last week that the decision to impose vias bans had been made "on the basis of credible information that those individuals -- less than 10 -- were or are either engaging in or benefitting from corruption."
"These individuals, government officials or former government officials, or persons connected with such officials, are barred from entering the US," he said.
Budapest said it had summoned Goodfriend to discuss the matter.