Budapest, Muscat to open ‘reciprocal embassies’

Muscat - 

Hungary has proposed the opening of ‘reciprocal embassies’ in Muscat and Budapest with an aim to raise the level of diplomatic engagement with Oman, a senior Hungarian Minister has said. “We must have embassies on a reciprocal basis,” Levente Magyar, the State Secretary for Economic Diplomacy at Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told Muscat Daily in an exclusive interview.

Magyar was on a day-long official visit to Muscat on June 3.

Revealing that from among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, Oman is the largest investor in Hungary, Magyar added, “It’s lamentable that while we have embassies in Riyadh, Kuwait, Doha and Abu Dhabi, we have only been engaging with Muscat at the consular level. We are committed to correct this [aberration].”

The sultanate’s investments in Hungary is worth over US$1.7bn. “Oman Oil Company owns a large share in the Hungarian oil company Magyar Olaj Gazi (MOL), which has some drilling blocks in the sultanate. Oman also owns the Four Seasons Hotel in Budapest. Overlooking the Danube, it is the most prestigious and emblematic hotel in the Hungarian capital,” the Minister elaborated.

Magyar said that both, Muscat and Budapest, have agreed in principle to open the respective missions ‘within two years’. “Oman’s coverage of Central and Eastern Europe is sparse. It has embassies in Moscow and Vienna but nothing in between.

Budapest could bridge that gap,” he proposed, adding “I would not impose a deadline, but ‘it’s realistic [to open embassies] within two years.”

Regional challenges

Magyar admitted that Hungary’s decision to elevate the bilateral political engagement reflects Oman’s increasing influence as a ‘peace negotiator’ in the region. He praised His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said for his statesmanship and successful mediation in Iran’s nuclear negotiations and the ongoing Yemen peace talks. “We deeply value the successful efforts of Oman towards maintaining peace in the region,” said the Hungarian Minister.

Pointing out that the sultanate is situated at the epicentre of a region that faces a lot of security challenges including the crises in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, Magyar said, “Hungary is fascinated by Oman’s capability to navigate through this turbulence of conflicts.”

“Oman has not only been able to maintain stability and security of its citizens, but it has assumed a leading role in mitigating these conflicts by mediating between rival parties. I think that it’s a significant achievement which is acknowledged by all in the international community,” he elucidated.

Lauding Oman’s efforts in bringing together US and Iran on the same table for nuclear  negotiations, Magyar stressed that the sanctions regime [against Iran] has adversely affected Hungary as well. “We are more than looking forward to progress on tearing down the sanctions because it would open up immense opportunities for Hungary. Iran is a big market for our agricultural exports and our companies that want to expand in the region,” he said.

“If the [Iranian nuclear] deal is sealed by the end of this month, it will be a positive development not only for this region but the entire world,” Magyar concluded.

Areas of cooperation

During his visit, Magyar held talks with H E Ahmed bin Yousef al Harthy, Undersecretary for Diplomatic Affairs in Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also visited the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), where he was received by Redha bin Juma al Saleh, OCCI deputy chairman for administrative and financial affairs.

The Hungarian Minister said that possible areas of cooperation have been identified and four bilateral agreements are in the pipeline. “These agreements include three on economic cooperation: Avoidance of double taxation; establishment of a joint economic committee; and investment protection. The fourth agreement pertains to scholarship programmes whereby Hungary plans to offer fully sponsored state scholarship to Omani students,” he elaborated.

“We are working towards a higher level visits by our foreign ministers when these four agreements could be signed,” the Minister added.

Magyar underlined that agriculture is one of Hungary’s key sectors that has a latent market in Oman. “We are a major exporter of foods. Oman, on the other hand, is a significant importer. Hence there’s an innate potential in boosting trade in this sector. With our additional expertise in water management, Hungary could help in reclaiming damaged land in Oman and prepare it for agriculture,” he explained.

Other sectors of potential cooperation include, health services, IT and sports management.

 

BILATERAL ENGAGEMENT

* Hungary and Oman to open reciprocal embassies within two years

* Oman is the largest investor in Hungary from GCC with total assets worth over US$1.7bn

* Oman owns the Four Seasons Hotel in Budapest, the most prestigious and emblematic hotel in the Hungarian capital

* Foreign Minister-level visit being planned

* Agreements on avoidance of double taxation; establishment of a joint economic committee; and investment protection to be signed soon

* Hungary mulls offering fully-sponsored state scholarships to Omani students

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