BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Serbia will provide Hungary with increased shipments of Russian natural gas if Ukraine follows through on ending a gas transit agreement with Russia, Hungary’s foreign minister said Sunday.
Speaking in a taped message, Peter Szijjarto said Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, had met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest, and assured him that Serbia would be able to supply more Russian gas to Hungary if Kyiv declines to extend an agreement allowing its transit across Ukrainian territory.
“We’ve heard in recent days that Ukraine would like to terminate the previously concluded natural gas transit agreement with Russia,” Szijjarto said. “Today, the Serbian president made it clear that if Hungary would like to increase natural gas shipments through Serbia to Hungary, then Serbia can ensure the necessary shipment capacities.”
The deal came after Ukraine’s energy minister, German Galushchenko, indicated Kyiv was unlikely to extend the transit agreement which brings Russian natural gas to European countries via Ukraine. That agreement is set to expire next year.
Hungary gets roughly 80% of its natural gas from Russia — primarily via the TurkStream pipeline which passes through Serbia to its south — and has fought vigorously against sanctions on Russian energy proposed by the European Union. Even after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Hungary has sought to streamline its access to Russian fossil fuels, arguing they were essential to its energy security.
During a visit to Moscow in April, Foreign Minister Szijjarto said Russian state energy company Gazprom had agreed to allow Hungary, if needed, to import quantities of natural gas beyond the amounts agreed to in a long-term contract concluded in 2021.
On Sunday, Szijjarto said that Orbán had also met with the president of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, and expressed interest in Hungary becoming a future destination and transit point for future gas exports from Turkmenistan.
Orbán is hosting the leaders of Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia, Qatar and a number of Central Asian nations on Sunday as the World Athletics Championships take place in Budapest.
The lineup of guests, devoid of any leaders from Hungary’s allies in the EU and NATO, reflects Orbán’s push to increase diplomatic and political cooperation with autocracies in the Balkans and Asia.