Following the deaths at the weekend of two New Zealand soldiers in Bamyan province, Mr Key on Monday questioned the competence of Hungarian forces in neighbouring Baghlan province.
The soldiers were shot by insurgents who apparently infiltrated from Baghlan province, where the Hungarians operate.
“They don’t go out at night – they might when they’re in Budapest but not when they’re in Afghanistan,” Mr Key said.
He revealed New Zealand troops were going to patrol beyond the Bamyan border because there was “a gap” in security arrangements.
Hungary‘s defence ministry says Mr Key’s comments were “inappropriate” and “lack the spirit of comradeship and union that we would like to preserve”.
Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, Phil Goff, says it was a gratuitous insult.
“John Key’s comments that Hungarians would go out at night in Budapest but not on patrol in Afghanistan has understandably been seen by them as questioning their courage,” he said on Friday.
“Hungary has lost seven of its soldiers in Afghanistan in the difficult Baghlan province… if John Key has genuine issues about how they are doing their job he should have raised it directly with them and in confidence.”
Mr Goff says “publicly slanging them off” in the way Mr Key did has caused anger and resentment against New Zealand and undermined the relationship between Kiwis and their allies.
“Frankly, it’s stupid,” he said.