A bipartisan delegation had sought to discuss Sweden’s NATO bid with senior officials in Budapest FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives at an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium. © Jean Catuffe / Getty Images

Senior Hungarian officials have refused to meet four US senators who arrived in Budapest on Sunday, Washington’s envoy to the country has said. The American lawmakers are attempting to press Prime Minister Viktor Orban into speeding up approval of Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The delegation sought to meet a range of senior government officials and representatives from the ruling Fidesz party, US Ambassador David Pressman stated. The Hungarians declined, however, despite the group being “the most senior US bipartisan congressional delegation” to visit the country in recent years, the diplomat added.

The senators intend to submit a joint resolution to the US Congress that would condemn Hungary for alleged democratic backsliding, the Associated Press reported. Thom Tillis, one of the visiting lawmakers, urged Orban to speed up Sweden’s accession, claiming at a news conference that doing so would be “a great service to freedom-loving nations worldwide.”

Chris Murphy, another delegate, called the boycott “strange and concerning” and identified Orban as standing in the way of the ratification. Hungary is the only NATO country yet to approve Sweden’s membership of the US-led military bloc.

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“We are wise enough about politics here to know that if Prime Minister Orban wants this to happen, then the parliament can move forward,” Murphy said.

Orban addressed the issue of NATO expansion during a rally on Saturday, saying Budapest and Stockholm were on a path to “rebuild trust.” A vote could happen during the parliamentary spring session, he suggested.

The prime minister previously cited Swedish criticism of his government and Hungary’s democratic credentials as the main reasons for skepticism among lawmakers in Budapest. NATO approved Sweden’s bid to join in June 2022.

The anti-Hungarian US resolution will criticize Orban for maintaining good relations with Russia and China, according to AP. Budapest has “resisted and diluted” the EU sanctions imposed on Moscow, the text reportedly states.

Orban is a vocal critic of the Western approach to the Ukraine crisis. He has argued that the arming of Kiev and the restrictions on Russia have failed to end the bloodshed and have caused major economic harm to the EU. He has also resisted Ukraine’s push to join NATO and the EU.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said it was “not worth trying to exert pressure on us, because we are a sovereign country,” as he expressed general approval of the American visit on Friday. (RT)