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Finland's Foreign Minister warns Taliban advance may lead to Afghan refugee crisis

Pekka Haavisto (Green) also spoke about the migrant situation on the Belarus-Lithuania border and the developing humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Pekka Haavisto.
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. Image: AFP / Lehtikuva

The Taliban's rapid military advance across Afghanistan may lead to refugees fleeing the country and seeking asylum in Europe, according to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green).

"If the Taliban takes over more territory in Afghanistan and people's lives become even more difficult, it is possible that we will see a new influx of refugees from Afghanistan," Haavisto said in an interview with Yle's Ykkösaamu breakfast show on Wednesday morning.

The Foreign Minister added that Turkey could become a transit route for refugees looking to escape to Europe.

Taliban insurgents have seized dozens of districts in recent weeks, according to the UN's latest information, with the BBC reporting that about a third of the country is now under their control.

The Taliban gains come as US and NATO forces prepare to pull out of Afghanistan after 20 years in the troubled country.

Haavisto: Lithuanian migration crisis caused by Belarus "bullying"

Haavisto also addressed the situation on the Lithuania-Belarus border, after the Lithuanian government declared a state of emergency last week when migrants crossed into the country from neighbouring Belarus.

According to the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, about 1,200 migrants -- most of them from the Middle East -- have since crossed the border into Lithuania.

Haavisto told Yle that he believes Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is retaliating against sanctions imposed by the European Union on Belarus.

"This is a hybrid operation that aims to harass the European Union and affect border security," Haavisto said, adding that Lithuanian delegates are on the way to Turkey and Iraq for negotiations aimed at resolving the situation.

"I have met with the Iraqi Foreign Minister. He is at least willing to take responsibility for his own citizens," Haavisto said.

The Finnish Border Guard has also sent patrols to Lithuania to help with the situation at the Belarus border.

Work must be done to prevent "humanitarian crisis" in Ethiopia

During his appearance on Ykkösaamu, Haavisto also spoke about the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia and especially the situation in the Tigray region, in the north of the country.

In June, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry issued a press release criticising Haavisto's stance on the situation in Tigray.

According to news agency AP, Haavisto said Ethiopia's leaders told him earlier this year in conversations behind closed doors that "they are going to wipe out the Tigrayans for 100 years."

The Ethiopian government said Haavisto's remarks were an attempt to undermine the administration and facilitate an unwarranted intervention in the country. Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry dismissed Haavisto's comments as "ludicrous" and a "hallucination of sorts or a lapse in memory of some kind," AP reported.

"The concern is that there will be a famine in Tigray and the humanitarian crisis there is growing day by day," Haavisto told Yle, adding that he believes he will be able to continue as the EU special envoy to Ethiopia despite the criticism.

"Criticism must always be accepted, but in a situation where the humanitarian crisis is so torrid, work must be done despite the criticism," Haavisto said.

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