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Oman-Hungary bilateral relations set to scale new heights: Péter Szijjártó

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A high-level visit by a Hungarian delegation to the Sultanate of Oman ended on an upbeat note last week with Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, voicing strong optimism for significantly improved bilateral relations between the two countries, spanning trade, investment, tourism, higher education, hydrocarbons and green energy, among other areas.


During his one-day visit, accompanied by a business delegation representing around 24 leading Hungarian firms, Szijjártó held talks with a number of senior Omani ministers and government officials. Those exchanges will help pave the way for enhanced and mutually beneficial ties between the two countries, he noted.


Speaking exclusively to the Observer, the Hungarian guest underlined the importance of a key agreement on the Protection and Promotion of Mutual Investments that was signed by the two sides during the visit.


“This agreement is important because it provides the legal basis for the investments Hungarian companies are willing to make in the Sultanate of Oman to be secure and safe. This agreement is also very important for the business community here in the Sultanate of Oman’’, said Szijjártó, adding that the talks will have a positive bearing on trade and investment ties between the two countries.


Another important highlight of the visit, he said, was the signing of an agreement between a Hungarian company and an Omani firm for the establishment of a solar power plant in the Sultanate of Oman at cost of around 10 million euro.


“This is the first Hungarian investment of this kind in the Gulf region’’, said Szijjártó in this regard.


“We consider this region as very attractive from the perspective of its transformation in the energy industry. We are now ready to move to the new renewable, green sustainable stage of the energy industry.”


INVESTMENTS


Aside from the green energy space, Oman’s special economic zones (SEZs) and free zones are making attractive investment destinations for Hungarian businesses, said the minister. He noted in this regard that the potential Hungarian investments in the Sultanate of Oman were a sign of the growing strength of the Hungarian economy and its diversification.


He explained: “The Hungarian national economy is on the edge of a shifting dimension. We have broken three records last year: The record of FDI inflows into Hungary, the record of employment and the record of exports. Now, the further success of our national economy depends on whether competitive Hungarian companies will be strong enough to invest outside of the country from where they profit better than invest in the national economy.”


One attractive destination for such investments is free zones in the Gulf region, including those in the Sultanate of Oman, said the Hungarian official. To enable Hungarian businesses to invest overseas, the government has introduced a programme that allows such investments to be financed from the budget — up to the extent of 50 per cent, Szijjártó said, adding: “We have already got some signals from companies that they are considering investments in the Sultanate of Oman.”


PROMISING AREAS


Other promising areas for potential cooperation include the renewable energy field, construction, digital education, security and water management, said the minister, noting that Hungary is well-placed to provide effective solutions to the Sultanate of Oman, and globally as well, in technologically oriented industries.


Importantly, Omani investment in Hungary is also a matter of pride for Budapest with efforts under way to strengthen Omani business ties with Hungary, he said. Oman Investment Authority (OIA), the integrated sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman, owns one of Budapest’s finest hotels, said Szijjártó.


“I spoke to Oman Investment Authority to put further consideration into such investments. For the energy industry, there will be a business delegation coming to Hungary this week, led by a member of the deputy of the finance committee in the Omani Majlis to explore opportunities to invest in food as well as in the oil industry.”


Turning to the issue of air-connectivity between the Sultanate of Oman and Hungary, Szijjártó said Budapest was “absolutely ready and open” to flights between the countries’ capital, but lamented that Hungary lacks a national carrier at present.


He added however: “We have the agreement that once Oman Air is ready to fly, we will give them all permissions. Besides, the pandemic makes travelling very complicated. We still can simplify it. I have initiated an agreement with the Omani Minister of Economy, and he gave a very positive response that in case we make an agreement to reciprocally recognise our vaccination certificate. Then, we will allow Omani citizens to travel freely to Hungary without a (PCR) test and without quarantine. Similarly, Oman will allow the already vaccinated Hungarian citizens to enter the Sultanate of Oman smoothly. Hopefully the agreement in this regard will be given green light soon.”



STRONG TIES


In the interview, Szijjártó also hailed growing ties between the two countries. “We have put a lot of emphasis on strengthening the relationship between the Sultanate of Oman and Hungary. The two governments have ensured the five preconditions of a good relationship: First, physical presence: We have an embassy here opened two years ago. Second, people to people contact: We have enrolled Omanis into our scholarship programme starting this September and every year, 50 Omani students will join Hungarian universities. Third, legal circumstances: The agreement of avoiding double taxation has already been in place and we signed, during this visit, the agreement for mutual protection of investments. Fourth, financial aspects: Hungary EXIM Bank has opened a credit line of $56 million to finance Hungarian and Omani companies. The fifth precondition is the legal aspect: We have no disagreements, we support each other in international agreements. We mutually support membership of each other in the Executive Council of Unesco, and we don’t interfere in the domestic issues of each other.”


The Hungarian minister had warm praise for the Sultanate of Oman’s quiet diplomacy and advocacy of peace and reconciliation in resolving regional disputes. Without mediation, the fallout of any conflict in the region would likely have an impact on countries far removed from the Middle East, he warned.


“The Sultanate of Oman’s role in the region is characterised by diplomacy and dialogue,” said Szijjártó.


“Although we seem to be geographically remote, when it comes to security, everything that happens here in this region has direct impacts on the sense of barriers. So, whatever happens in the Gulf or Middle East region, it definitely has an impact on security situations in Europe. Because the least security situation in these regions, the more illegal immigrants will come,” he commented.


Diplomacy and mediation


Szijjártó went on to emphasise the importance of dialogue in cooling tensions, settling conflicts and even pacifying armed disputes — an imperative that could also ease tensions globally.


“That’s why we urge Russia and our Western allies to discuss instead of going through suffering that no one wants. We always respect the role of countries which put their emphasis on facilitating dialogue and diplomacy.


The Sultanate of Oman is a front runner in this regard. We really value and respect the balanced and unbiased approach of the Sultanate of Oman to regional issues. As long as we have such countries, we have hope that even the most heated tensions can be solved.”


Szijjártó also strongly defends Hungary’s stance on immigration, arguing that its policies are based on international law.


“It says that if anyone is forced to flee (their homeland), then he or she is entitled to stay temporarily in the territory of the first safe country. The one escaping from his/her home for any reason can’t go through any country to end up anywhere he/she wants. Since these immigrants come to us through Serbia, Croatia and Romania and these are all safe countries, there is no legal or humanitarian reason to allow these people to violate the border between peaceful countries.”


He further added: “Secondly, it is a sovereign right of the country to make a decision with whom you are ready to live together. And just because a nation says that it would like to stay as it has been over the last couple hundreds of years, this nation should not be considered better or worse than another. Thirdly, we are human beings and feel the responsibility to help. We have a programme called ‘Hungary Helps’, which is to help communities in need on the spot. For example, rebuilding houses, churches, schools, hospitals and covering their operational costs. In other words, making circumstances for people to stay there and bring help where it is needed.”


@zainabalnasseri


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