Hungary to appoint Syria diplomat in thawing of ties

Hungary has often been at loggerheads with other EU members and the EU itself. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019
0

Hungary to appoint Syria diplomat in thawing of ties

  • The ministry said Budapest provides humanitarian aid for Christians in the Middle East, including in Syria
  • A “considerable number” of Syrian students study in Hungary on scholarships

BUDAPEST: Hungary is planning to appoint a diplomat to carry out “consular duties” in Damascus next year, the first time an EU member state is to upgrade its diplomatic presence in Syria since the start of the war.
“Starting next year, Hungary will delegate a diplomat who will occasionally visit Syria to make follow ups on humanitarian support and to conduct consular duties,” Hungary’s foreign ministry said in a statement to AFP on Wednesday.
The ministry said Budapest provides humanitarian aid for Christians in the Middle East, including in Syria, while a “considerable number” of Syrian students study in Hungary on scholarships.
Only the Czech Republic still has an embassy in Damascus, while other EU countries, the US and Canada are among those which have closed their missions, breaking off relations with the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Romania technically still has an embassy in Syria, but the ambassador is based in Beirut. Bulgaria has a charge d’affaires.
EU countries have in the past sent envoys to Syria, but not for consular purposes, with their duties limited to talks on aid and policy.
Syria’s conflict flared in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that sparked a brutal regime crackdown. Since then, 370,000 people have been killed and millions displaced.
A source close to the Hungarian government told AFP that Budapest was considering engaging Assad to better help Christians, as well as “be ahead of” other EU countries possibly re-opening ties for economic opportunities.
“Many people in (the ruling party) Fidesz and in the government think that the question of engaging Assad is not a question of if, but when it is going to happen,” he said.
Led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary has often been at loggerheads with other EU members and the EU itself on what Orban calls its pro-immigration stance and other issues.


Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

Updated 17 September 2019
0

Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

  • Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods
  • Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented

CAIRO: Egypt has ordered Italy’s former honorary consul to stand trial in absentia over charges of attempting to smuggle thousands of artefacts out of the country, the public prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted last year to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods in a diplomatic container from Alexandria to the Italian port of Salerno, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
It said Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented at a private bank.
Artefacts he allegedly attempted to smuggle went on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo last year.
It was not immediately possible to contact Skakal. A call to a phone number in Rome listed under his name in an online directory went unanswered.
The public prosecutor also ordered some Egyptians accused of helping Skakal to stand trial. The statement did not name the suspects but said they had been detained.
Egypt has also asked Interpol to issue a red notice against Skakal, the statement added. A red notice requests law enforcement agencies to provisionally arrest a suspect pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
Antiquities theft flourished in Egypt in the years after the country’s 2011 uprising, with relics stolen from museums, mosques, storage facilities and illegal excavations.