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Finnish Foreign Minister: Syrian developments boosting Russia’s role

Foreign Minister Haavisto believes the Kurds' alliance with the Syrian army will increase Russian influence in the region.

Siviilit tervehtivät Syyrian hallinnon joukkoja Tal Tamr -kaupungissa 14.10.
Civilians welcoming Syrian army soldiers arriving at the town of Tal Tamr in northwestern Syria on Monday, October 14, 2019. Image: SANA / EPA

Finland anticipates that US withdrawal from northern Syria will strengthen the Syrian government and its Russian backers in the region.

"An agreement with the Kurds will strengthen Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. It can make a deal with the Kurds, take over the border area and take control of the whole country," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Yle on Tuesday morning.

"In this way, Russia, which has backed the al-Assad regime, will become a stronger actor," said Haavisto.

He described US policy in Syria as inconsistent, leading to a weakening of the western position and advancing Russia's.

"Russia's role in the balance of power will become more important," according to Haavisto.

Pekka Haavisto
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. Image: Photo Edijs / EPA

He added that he sees Syrian military support for the Kurds as completely changing the situation for Turkey.

"The situation is now more difficult for Turkey, being faced by a national opponent. This no longer looks like an operation against terrorism, but rather an attack on another country," Haavisto stated.

Foreign Minister Haavisto believes that economic sanctions against Turkey will quickly have an impact.

"Turkey is very dependent on trade with Europe and the United States, as well as income from tourism. Countries at war easily lose income from tourism," he pointed out.

Turkey is attempting to pressure the EU by threatening to send 3.5 million Syrian refugees to Europe. According to Pekka Haavisto, the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxemburg on Monday did not allow that threat to influence their discussions.

"For me it came as a positive surprise that Turkey's threats did not sidetrack talks into a discussion on refugees. It was possible to keep the talks focused on the Turkish-Syrian situation and demonstrating solidarity with the Kurds. It was a mature response by the European Union."

Haavisto refuses to accept Syrian refugees being used as pawns in global politics. He said he believes that their only hope is to return home.

"Indeed, these people see that they are being exploited for political motives. This is a game that the refugees cannot countenance."

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