HS: Niinistö noticed two possible positive signs in talks with Putin

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HS: Niinistö noticed two possible positive signs in talks with Putin

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö was photographed arriving at 10 Downing Street, the office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Tuesday, 15 March 2022. Niinistö and Johnson held bilateral talks about the ramifications of the war in Ukraine. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

PRESIDENT Sauli Niinistö on Wednesday told Helsingin Sanomat that he detected two possible positive signs during his recent hour-long phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Niinistö said he asked Putin during the call whether he has given up on the apparent goal of ousting the current government and president of Ukraine.

“The line of thinking [behind my question] is that they may have given up on toppling the government because they’re willing to negotiate. This is what I was after. It may be that I’m completely on the wrong track, but it’d be at least a small positive signal if my suspicion proved right,” he explained to the newspaper.

“It may be that I’m misinterpreting this aspect, but if you’re negotiating with another government and your goal is to topple that government, I don’t think you’d be negotiating about that.”

The second positive sign is that the Russian president specifically expressed his readiness to continue the discussions.

“That has never happened in our previous talks – Putin noting that he’s ready to continue the talks, that is. Usually the talks end with us saying goodbye. Now he specifically mentioned that he’s available. That’s unusual,” told Niinistö.

He viewed that the two aspects can be interpreted as “delicate” constructive signs, even though it remains uncertain whether they will be of any tangible significance.

Putin, he also revealed, hardly reacted to his demand for an immediate interim ceasefire in Ukraine. Niinistö had a roughly hour-long phone conversation with Putin on Friday, 11 March, marking the first time the two heads of state have talked since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Niinistö: Finland has UK’s “full support” on security policy decisions

Niinistö on Tuesday sat down with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street in London to discuss the attack on Ukraine by Putin’s Russia and its ramifications for the security landscape of Europe.

The UK understands Finland’s position very well, according to Niinistö.

“We’ll have Great Britain’s full support also when we make our [security] decisions, be it one way or another,” he was quoted as saying during a media availability by Helsingin Sanomat. “Given that I was just asked about Nato membership [in the press conference], yes, the clear message from Britain is that the doors are open as far as they’re concerned.”

The message was also reflected in a press release put out by Downing Street.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that sovereign countries should be able to choose their own future, without fear or threat from Russia,” it reads. “He also set out the UK’s long-standing and steadfast support of Finland and its security, and said he looked forward to deepening defence and cultural ties between our two nations.

Niinistö added that although the scope of concrete support has been discussed in ministerial meetings, there is “a long way” to binding security guarantees because parliamentary approval is required to assist another country.

The two heads of state share a concern about how to strike a balance between stopping the killing of civilians and the threat of violent escalation, according to Niinistö. This question, he added, is pertinent particularly for Nato countries.

“It’s a very difficult equation. The pressure to stop the killing one way or another is only growing,” he said.

Niinistö visited London on Monday and Tuesday to attend a summit of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a British-led military coalition of like-minded countries in Northern Europe. A public statement issued by the coalition underscores that no other nation must be allowed to “fall victim to attempts of violent expansionism”.

“There’s no going back to the past,” said Niinistö.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Source: www.helsinkitimes.fi

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