President Halonen told in advance of Russian decision to recognise breakaway areas
Vanhanen: No impact on Finland's "direction"
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev informed Finnish President Tarja Halonen in advance of Russia's decision to grant recognition to the Georgian breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Helsingin Sanomat has learned that Medvedev informed Halonen by letter in good time before the information was made public.
Russia is believed to have sent similar letters to other countries - at least to France, the holder of the EU Presidency.
Halonen did not comment on Tuesday on Russia’s decision to recognise Georgia’s rebel provinces.
Earlier in the day, in a speech at a meeting of Finnish ambassadors, Halonen nevertheless touched upon the situation in Georgia.
According to the President, a war in Europe, in which Finland’s neighbour Russia is taking part, is an unsettling phenomenon, and a cause for serious consideration.
“The war in South Ossetia clearly showed that so-called frozen conflicts are very volatile. Their causes are historically complicated, and resolving them is very important, but difficult.
Halonen praised Finnish activities as the holder of the chairmanship of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and said that Finland has been successful in its mission.
With respect to Finnish foreign policy, Halonen emphasised the importance of perseverance and the maintenance of a credible national defence.
“We are one of the few European countries with a capability of defending ourselves. We will not give this up, and we will develop our defence further.”
President Halonen does not believe that the situation in Georgia will affect the basic direction of the government’s next defence policy report.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) told the ambassadors that Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “does not have any special impact on Finland’s direction”.
He added that the move is “in complete conflict” with OSCE principles.
“As a member of the OSCE, Russia is committed to respecting the territorial integrity of member states”, Vanhanen said on Tuesday.
However, he advised against putting actual pressure on Russia, noting that “it is not sensible to escalate the situation further”.
“In spite of difficulties, it is very important, that a way would be found, especially in relations between the EU and Russia, that would lead to normal relations.”
Vanhanen did not speculate as to whether or not any other countries would recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“Each country proceeds on its own schedule to draw conclusions. Finland has never been in a hurry in these recognition questions. We consider matters carefully, and will continue to do so this time as well.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen and Stubb criticise Russian military action in Georgia (26.8.2008)
Vanhanen: South Ossetia crisis will affect next national defence report (19.8.2008)
Politicians: Finnish policy unaffected by Caucasus crisis (13.8.2008)