Hungarian president to skip NATO's eastern flank summit -Latvia

Inauguration of the new President of Hungary

By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) -Hungary's President Tamas Sulyok will not attend the summit of the Bucharest Nine, a group of European countries on the eastern edge of NATO in Riga on Tuesday, Latvian president's office said.

The summit will not end with a joint declaration of the nine countries, the office added, for the first time since the format was established in 2015.

Instead, a statement will be issued in the name of the presidents of Latvia, Romania and Poland, who jointly host the Riga gathering, a spokesperson for Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics told Reuters on Monday.

Hungary and the other central European nations have been at odds over Prime Minister Viktor Orban's continued cultivation of close ties to Russia and refusal to give arms to Ukraine.

"Hungary will be represented by the Ambassador to Latvia", said the spokesperson.

She referred to Sulyok's office "for questions related to the Hungarian president’s agenda".

The Hungarian president's office did not immediatelly reply to the request for comment, which was sent outside working hours.

The presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are usually represented at the annual summits of the Buharest Nine grouping. Thare countries are members of both NATO and the European Union.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who will be at the Riga summit, will visit Budapest the next day "to discuss Hungary's staying out from NATO's Ukraine mission", Orban told state media earlier on Monday.

Hungary signalled last week it had no plans to abandon natural gas imports from Russia and sought to deepen business ties with Moscow in non-sanctioned areas.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Alistair Bell and Stephen Coates)