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Hungary's Orban visits former German Chancellor Kohl, stresses support for Merkel

Hungarian PM Orban and the former German leader have said they are fully in agreement with the aims of Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy. Their statement comes after a meeting that caused some disapproval in Berlin.

In a statement issued after an 80-minute private meeting on Tuesday, Orban and Kohl said they saw no difference between their attitude and that of Chancellor Angela Merkel on the refugee issue.

They went on to say that the aim of any refugee policy must be "to find the best path, in humanitarian terms, in an existential issue for millions of people," and that they were thus in complete agreement with Merkel's goals.

The comments in the statement seem not a little surprising in view of previous remarks made by the two politicians regarding the recent influx of refugees and migrants to Europe.

Orban has

often been at odds with Merkel

over the past months, notably rejecting her call for EU states to accept refugees according to a quota system, and sealing off his country's border with a fence.

Deutschland Viktor Orbán besucht Helmut Kohl

Kohl says the solution to the migrant crisis lies outside Europe

Kohl, for his part, was quoted last week as telling the "Tagesspiegel" daily that Europe could not

"become a new home

for the millions of people in need throughout the world" - a veiled criticism of Merkel's asylum policies, which last year saw 1.1 million asylum-seekers come to Germany from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

An eyebrow-raising meeting

The meeting between the two men in Kohl's western-German home of Ludwigshafen was seen by some in Berlin as a

possible intended snub to Merkel,

who is a former CDU protege of Kohl but has since come under criticism from the retired elder statesman for policies regarding eurozone debt and refugees, among others.

Last month, in another contentious move, Orban visited Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer, who has also called on his conservative ally Merkel to take a tougher line on refugees.

Merkel herself said she welcomed the meeting between Orban and Kohl as "sensible and useful," adding that it was natural for the friendship they had forged in the past to continue even in Kohl's retirement from office.

Ungarn Auszeichnung von Helmut Kohl durch Viktor Orbán

Kohl received a medal from Orban in 2000 for helping Hungary enter the EU

In earlier comments to the "Bild" newspaper, Orban also said he wanted to support Merkel's refugee policy, saying Hungary and he as prime minister stood "side by side" with Berlin on the issue.

Following the meeting with Kohl, which took place without the presence of the media at the 86-year-old's home, Orban praised Kohl as a symbol of the German-Hungarian friendship, saying he wanted to thank him for all he had done for his country.

Kohl, who is known as one of the major architects of German reunification, has made fewer public appearances in recent years, having left active politics in 2002. Since suffering a fall and a stroke in past years, he has some difficulties with speech and uses a wheelchair.

tj/msh (AFP, dpa)

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