Timo Soini, Wiki

Top Finnish diplomat in dialogue with Moscow

Finland and Russia maintain an open bilateral dialogue and discuss their problems in straight talks, according to Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini.

Published: October 12, 2016, 10:59 am

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    “If we disagree [with Russia] we’ll say it clearly and loudly, there is nothing exceptional in that. If there are problems, we deal with them accordingly with straight talk. And Russia respects that,” Soini told journalists on Tuesday.

    Finland is a European Union member, Soini added and will continue adhering to the policy of sanctions, which the EU has imposed on Russia.

    “I want to stress one thing and that is for sure. Now that we have these sanctions decided by the EU, Finland will stay in the unified front. But the Minsk agreement should be fulfilled and then sanctions could be lifted,” the Finnish foreign minister said.

    Soini also touched upon the safety of flights over the Baltic Sea. He said the problem could not be brought down to discussions among regional states and should be discussed at several levels. “It is not just neighboring countries – the Baltic States, Northern Europe or Russia. There is also the Russia-NATO Council and other levels, which could also deal with the issue,” Soini stressed.

    The rightwing Soini, 52, is a well-known Eurosceptic and a critic of the refugee influx.

    His party, the popular Finns Party (PS) manifesto clearly states that Finland should renegotiate the terms of European Union membership and recover powers from Brussels.

    Along with The Netherlands, Belgium and Greece, Finland is the fourth EU country with anti-elitist Eurosceptics in government.

    Russia meanwhile have relocated Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave surrounded by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

    NATO leaders are reportedly unhappy with what they perceive as an “act of aggression” near the borders of their member states.

    A NATO representative told the German Press Agency. “We need more — not less — transparency and predictability on military activities to avoid incidents and the risk of misunderstandings.”

    Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov shrugged off the concerns, calling the move “nothing exceptional.”

    Relations between the West and Russia have grown increasingly strained because of President Vladimir Putin’s support of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. NATO members say they have reported airspace violations by Russia in recent months.

    But Russia isn’t the only nation moving troops around. At a summit in Warsaw earlier this year, NATO announced it was planning to deploy additional troops in Poland, as well as the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

    karin@praag.org

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