US senator blocks arms sales to Hungary for blocking Sweden’s NATO bid

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Republican on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Wednesday he was blocking a $735 million arms sale to Hungary because his government refused to endorse the country’s candidacy. Sweden to NATO membership.

“Given the promises made to me and others last year that this vote would take place, and the fact that it is now June and it still hasn’t happened, I I have decided that the sale of new American military equipment to Hungary will be suspended,” he added. Sen. Jim Risch said in a statement.

“Hungary should take the necessary steps to allow Sweden into the alliance, and soon,” he said.

Under US law, major arms deals are reviewed by top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

They regularly ask questions or raise concerns about human rights or diplomatic issues that may delay or stop arms sales.

Risch’s decision to block the deal was first reported in the Washington Post, which said the sale included 24 HIMARS rocket launcher batteries and more than 100 rockets and pods plus associated parts and support. .

The Hungarian Ministry of Defense released a statement via state news agency MTI saying it had no plans to purchase HIMARS systems.

“During the previous term of government, the government commissioner for procurement requested information on HIMARS missile systems in a letter with a deadline of March 2022. There was no response from the US side, therefore, the ministry considered the case closed,” Hungary said. .

Sweden applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Objections from Turkey and Hungary delayed the offer and Sweden now hopes to join a NATO summit in Lithuania next month.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with US President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs in Budapest; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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