Prime Minister Vanhanen to visit USA, President Halonen to Russia
Finnish leaders are expected to meet with leaders of both the United States and Russia in the coming months, according to official sources.
The thorny issue of contacts with the present United States administration is being resolved by sending Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) to the USA, and not President Tarja Halonen.
The Prime Minister's visit to Washington is to take place sometime in the autumn or winter, as part of a broader trip to the USA and Canada.
Vanhanen's host in Washington is to be Vice President Dick Cheney. It is still not known if a meeting with President George W. Bush can be arranged.
Cheney was the host when Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen visited Washington in December 2002. Lipponen met with Bush at the time, and he was the last Finnish major political leader to do so.
As the Prime Minister's office makes arrangements for the trip to North America, preparations are also being made for a meeting between President Tarja Halonen and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two had agreed on meeting again at least once before the end of Putin's Presidency in March.
Their previous meeting was in Russia in July.
The Presidential Office said that no time had been set aside for a new summit. Putin will not be in St. Petersburg when Halonen visits the city for the opening of a new sewage treatment plant in early October.
Before going to Russia, President Halonen will fly to New York to take part in the United Nations General Assembly next week. Officials say Halonen will definitely not have any bilateral meetings with President Bush.
No such meetings have been requested or offered. Finland asked about the possibility of a meeting when Halonen visited New York in May and was given a negative answer from the White House.
Presidents Bush and Halonen will share at least a handshake when Halonen takes part in a reception for the leaders of the other delegations at the General Assembly.
Difficulties in arranging a meeting between Finnish and US leaders have been a cause of frustration among representatives of Finland's foreign affairs administration for a couple of years. At the same time, both Finland and the United States have given assurances that there are no problems in relations between the two countries.
Various sources said that US representatives had announced that an invitation to Washington would come in January 2006 after the Finnish Presidential elections, and that it would be up to Finland to decide if the President or Prime Minister would come.
However, no invitation came. At the same time, medium-level representatives of the US administration linked the invitation with other Finnish activities, according to Finnish sources.
Vanhanen's visit is not necessarily the implementation of the promised invitation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish Foreign Minister invites Rice to Finland (12.6.2007)
Foreign Ministry official says relations with USA are in good shape (15.1.2007)
On keeping up good relations with the U.S. (15.5.2006)
Bush rejects Halonen request for meeting (15.5.2007)
Prime Minister admits to "moderately long" gap in high level USA visits (15.5.2006)
US representative says relations with Finland are in order (9.10.2006)
President Halonen criticises proposed US terror legislation (23.9.2006)
Finland - important to Russia, not to USA (28.11.2006)