Hungary's Orban, a NATO outlier on Ukraine, talks 'peace mission' with Trump

Hungary's Orban, a NATO outlier on Ukraine, talks 'peace mission' with Trump

By Gram Slattery, Steve Holland and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with Donald Trump on Thursday and the pair discussed the "possibilities of peace", a spokesperson for the prime minister said as Orban pushes for a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Trump, the former Republican president who is running again for the White House in November's election, and Orban met at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida "as the next stop of his peace mission," Orban's spokesperson said. "The discussion was about the possibilities of peace."

"Thank you Viktor. There must be PEACE, and quickly. Too many people have died in a war that should have never started!" Trump later posted at midnight on his social media platform, without offering any details.

Nationalist leader Orban, a long-time Trump supporter, made surprise visits to Kyiv, Moscow and Beijing in the past two weeks on a self-styled "peace mission", angering NATO allies.

In particular, his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin vexed some other NATO members, who said the trip handed legitimacy to Putin when the West wants to isolate him over his war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said on Friday that Orban had not told Putin of his plans to meet with Trump, and that Putin did not convey any message to Trump via Orban.

Orban traveled to Kyiv before visiting Moscow but did not tell Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about his mission to Russia, Zelenskiy said on Thursday, dismissing Orban's ambition of playing the peacemaker.

"Not all the leaders can make negotiations. You need to have some power for this," Zelenskiy told a news conference at a NATO summit in Washington.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, when asked about Orban's initiative, said Ukraine would be rightly concerned about any attempt to negotiate a peace deal without involving Kyiv.

"Whatever adventurism is being undertaken without Ukraine's consent or support is not something that's consistent with our policy, the foreign policy of the United States," Sullivan said.

Orban's self-styled peace mission has also irked many members of the European Union. Hungary took over the rotating presidency of the bloc this month.

The Hungarian embassy in Washington declined to comment on the planned meeting with Trump, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

Orban attended this week's NATO summit that was hosted by Democratic President Joe Biden, who is seeking reelection in a potential rematch against Trump and has led support for Ukraine. Hungary's delegation voiced opposition to key NATO positions, while not blocking the alliance from taking action.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told Reuters on Wednesday that Hungary believes a second Trump presidency would boost hopes for peace in Ukraine.

Orban hoped to bring an end to the war through peace talks involving both Russia and Ukraine, according to Szijjarto.

Trump has said he would quickly end the war. He has not offered a detailed plan to achieve that, but Reuters reported last month that advisers to the former president had presented him with a plan to end the war in part by making future aid to Kyiv conditional on Ukraine joining peace talks.

In the past several months, foreign officials have regularly sought meetings with Trump and his key advisers to discuss his foreign policy if he wins the Nov. 5 election. Opinion polls show a tight race with Trump widening his lead over Biden in key battleground states.

One Trump adviser, Keith Kellogg, met with several high-ranking foreign officials on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Reuters reported this week.


Orban appeared isolated at the opening of the NATO meeting on Ukraine on Thursday, sitting alone while other leaders talked in a huddle.

Two European diplomats told Reuters that NATO allies were frustrated with Orban's actions around the summit, but stressed that he had not blocked the alliance from taking action on Ukraine.

Multiple EU leaders made clear Orban was not speaking for the bloc in his discussions on the war in Ukraine.

"I don't think there's any point in having conversations with authoritarian regimes that are violating international law," said Finnish President Alexander Stubb.

Hungary also diverged from its NATO allies on China, which the alliance said is an enabler of Russia's war effort and poses challenges to security. Hungary does not want NATO to become an "anti-China" bloc, and will not support it doing so, Szijjarto said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery, Steve Holland and Simon LewisAdditional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, John Irish, Costas Pitas, Andrew Gray and Susan HeaveyEditing by Timothy Heritage, Rod Nickel, Christian Schmollinger and Frances Kerry)