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Finnish President mediated messages between presidents of Turkey and Russia

During an Yle Radio 1 question and answer session on Saturday, President Sauli Niinistö revealed that he had facilitated messages between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö Yle Radio 1:n vieraana 5. joulukuuta.
President Sauli Niinistö in Yle's Radio 1 studio on December 5. Image: Maarit Mustonen / Yle

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö says Europe has failed in its inability to foresee the overwhelming scale of the current refugee crisis. Niinistö commented during an Yle call-in radio programme Saturday morning that all the signs were clear that unrest in the Middle East would unleash massive displacement into Europe.

In answering a listener's query about the role of small countries such as Finland in international politics, Niinistö revealed that he has acted as a go-between for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I don’t want to promote myself as a peacemaker, but I think a country this size has a role to play in building relations between the East and West,” said Niinistö. “So you see, small players like us do have a purpose,” he said.

Niinistö said that Finland's room to maneuver was limited during the Cold War, but even during that time Finland was able to play an active role in international relations as a mediator and peace broker.

The President also emphasised the potential role of the EU as a peace mediator. He said he hopes the European Union's significance in international relations will grow, especially in light of the the explosive situation in the Middle East and tense US-Russian relations.

When asked about the large number of asylum seekers to Finland and their effect on the country, Niinistö said that immigrants should accept Finnish values.

 “That's the central issue. People who want to be here need to accept our core values: democracy, equality, human rights and all of that. If they don't, they can't stay in Finland,” said Niinistö.

Edit: The piece was edited to reflect that President Niinistö did not mediate messages between Presidents Erdogan and Putin after, but before the Russian plane was shot down in November.

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