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Finnish Foreign Minister: "Real risk of war" between US and Iran

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that Finland is not envisaging a summit between Iran and the US at the moment.

Ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Yle he is concerned about the barbs traded by the US and Iran. Image: Jouni Immonen / Yle

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has said that recent sabre-rattling between the US and Iran has increased and could lead to military conflict. The newly-minted Green minister added that tensions between the two countries are very fraught at the moment.

"War could break out over even an isolated incident," Haavisto said in an Yle interview on Monday.

He said discussions over the current stand-off should stress that Iran should operate within the confines of the nuclear agreement to which it has committed.

"It would be good to find some mechanism by which Iran could be held to international cooperation in the future. The most dangerous Iran is an isolated Iran and this is also a risk," he commented.

US President Donald Trump has threatened Iran with military action over what the US claims are the state’s attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Oman, followed by the recent downing of a US military drone. Trump has since ratcheted up pressure on Iran by imposing sanctions on the country’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

Haavisto told Yle that Finland is working behind the scenes to calm the situation.

"Finland has had active ties with the Iranian capital Teheran and we have communicated [the need for] moderation in this situation in different ways to the current Iranian regime, saying that any kind of military action could trigger responses by other states," he explained.

Finland "not necessarily in first place" as possible summit location

A veteran peace negotiator, Haavisto said that he would like to expand Finland’s role as a peace envoy. He said that Finland should provide good diplomatic services whenever possible.

"In the case of different conflicts, there’s sometimes a need to find a peaceful place in a country that’s not involved in any kind of conflict. In that regard, Finland is an excellent location. Other Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden have also used this option actively. Of course Finland could be among this group as well," the minister declared.

However Haavisto said that Finland is not envisaging a summit between Iran and the US at the moment. He added that as a militarily non-aligned country, Finland would not necessarily be at the front of the queue when it came to speculation about possible peace negotiations.

"If a country is not a member of a military alliance, in some cases that can be seen as a benefit as that country could be considered more neutral. On the other hand, countries that belong to military alliances do a lot of peace work quite successfully. It’s mostly a question of being active and being able to provide good services," he continued.

The minister stressed that it is not especially important where negotiations take place, "as long as they happen."

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