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PM: Finland's arms export policy has not changed

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has rejected claims that Finland has changed its policy governing arms exports to conflict states.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä met with reporters at Kesäranta, Helsinki, the official residence of the Prime Minister, on Sunday. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

In a meeting with reporters on Sunday, Sipilä told said that Finland's policies are in line with those of other EU members and the country has clear criteria for arms exports.

But an article in Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday maintained that Finland has changed its arms policies - and as proof pointed to Finland's weapons deals in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, both countries with poor human rights records.

Finland has also increased dealings with the country of Saudi Arabia, and this year the majority of the country's weapons exports were sold to Middle Eastern countries.

On Sunday afternoon at Kesäranta, the PM's official residence in Helsinki, Sipilä told reporters that Finland's policy has not changed and said the country follows the examples of other European countries.

Per capita, Finland is one of the world's largest military hardware exporters. However Sipilä said that industrial interests still don't trump human rights issues.

Defence Committee Chair requesting investigation

Later in the day Sunday, the chair of the Defence Committee Ilkka Kanerva said he plans to ask for an investigation into the Defence Ministry's handling of arms trades.

Kanerva said that the time is now for a "natural update" of weapons exports.

"I don't think that a policy change in itself has occurred, but the interpretation [of the policy] has changed over time. It is such an interesting and sensitive subject that the Defence Committee will request a report from the Defence Ministry about how Finland has acted," Kanerva said.

Kanerva said that while European countries policies differ, all of the countries are bound to the same laws. He said that Finland is not the worst in this regard, compared to other European countries.

"We are definitely very conscientious when it comes to arms exports, and Finland is certainly not the first European country to be singled out for breaching EU policy," Kanerva said.

EDITED AT 7:40 pm October 23, 2016 to add comments from Defence Committee Chair  Ilkka Kanerva.