Hungary's Orban: better relations with Sweden needed before NATO membership

EU leaders attend a summit in Brussels

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Relations between Hungary and Sweden must improve before the Nordic state's bid for NATO membership is approved, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday.

Sweden and its neighbour Finland asked to join the NATO military alliance last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But Sweden's application has been held up by Turkey and Hungary, with Budapest citing grievances over Swedish criticism of Orban's record on democracy and the rule of law.

"The political relations between Hungary and Sweden are awfully wrong," he said. "We don't want to import conflicts into NATO."

There is no date yet when the Hungarian parliament will vote on the Swedish bid for admission, which has to be ratified by all 30 existing members.

NATO holds a summit in July.

Orban this week started a visit to Qatar, with which his government began talks last year on buying LNG. Orban said on Tuesday that "negotiations are still going on".

There is also a show of interest from Qatar in Budapest Airport, Orban said at the Qatar forum, adding "we would welcome them".

(Reporting by Boldizsar Gyori and Krisztina Than; Editing by Jason Hovet and Alex Richardson)