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Budapest - 11 February 2019
1. Wide, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto walk into news conference
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State: ++SOUNDBITE PARTIALLY OVERLAID++
"And today I spoke with Foreign Minister about the urgent importance of supporting Ukraine in its request in its quest for sovereignty and territorial integrity. We must not let Putin drive wedges between friends in NATO. Hungarians know all too well from their history that an authoritarian Russia will never be a friend to the freedom and sovereignty of smaller nations. Russia is not the only power that wants to erode freedom in this region. I raised with Peter today the dangers of allowing China to gain a bridgehead in Hungary. And we talked openly about how we might work together on that issue. There is an experience of states in the Asia-Pacific region that shows that Beijing's handshake sometimes comes with strings, strings that will leave Hungary indebted both economically and politically. You know, the difference is that Russia and China are authoritarian powers, who do not share our joint aspirations of freedom. Today, I met with Hungarian civil society leaders as well to talk about the importance of protecting and strengthening democratic institutions throughout the Western world. Americans and Hungarians have always stood together in the pursuit of freedom and that tradition continues today. It's why I'm so proud of the American engagement with this country and the Trump administration."
3. . SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian Foreign Minister:
++SOUNDBITES SEPARATED BY WHITE FLASHES++
"Look we are NATO allies. When it comes to cooperation with Russia or cooperation with the People's Republic of China. That does not harm us being a reliable or does not endanger us being a reliable ally to the United States and to NATO. If you look at our cooperation with China we represent 1.2 percent of the trade between the European Union and the People's Republic of China. If you look at that Chinese company which is very often in the news nowadays regarding telecommunication, are they present in Hungary? Yes. Who are their major contractors? A German and a British company. So. So when it comes to China I think hypocrisy should be left finally behind. Look at the trade figures. Look at the trade figures between the Western European countries and Russia and you will see that that we are let's say fed up in a legitimate way that you usually portray us as having a tight relationship to Russia."
U.S. fears about China and Russia's growing influence in Central Europe will top Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's agenda as he heads to the region this week.
Pompeo's five-nation tour of Europe began Monday in Hungary and will continue to Slovakia, where he will raise those concerns and the importance of promoting democracy and the rule of law to counter Beijing and Moscow's efforts to pull the countries away from the West and sow divisions in the European Union and NATO.
Pompeo specifically pointed to issues related to Central Europe's reliance on Russian energy and the presence of the Chinese high-tech telecom firm Huawei.
"Beijing's handshake sometimes comes with strings," Pompeo warned.
U.S. officials are deeply troubled by Huawei's expansion, especially in NATO member states where they believe it poses significant information security threats.
In response, Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary was a reliable NATO ally and relationships with China and Russia would not damage that.