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Haavisto: Conditions stable at Syrian camp housing Finnish Isis relatives

The foreign minister says that Finland and the EU are working daily to resolve the status of citizens at the camp.

Pekka Haavisto
Pekka Haavisto declined to comment on another presidential bid when asked on the Ykkösaamu programme. Image: Yle

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto says that the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria has not significantly affected the al-Hol detention camp, where those being held include Finnish women and their children. They are believed to be family members of so-called Islamic State (Isis) combatants.

"Conditions at the camp are stable at the moment. But it cannot be a permanent state of affairs that there are underage children at the camp," Haavisto said on the Yle current affairs programme Ykkösaamu on Saturday.

The foreign minister stressed that Finland and the EU are working on a daily basis to resolve the situation of their citizens at the camp.

"We don't have armed force or any other power to get these people out of there. If people come out of there, they must be able to do so safely. There are neighbouring countries that consider at least the adults to be criminals as they have acted within Isis," he said.

Haavisto added that the Kurdish administration in Syria has been informed that the Finnish citizens in the camp have a right to return to their homeland.

2024 presidential bid? No comment

Turning to domestic politics at the end of the interview, Haavisto was asked about the 2024 presidential election. He replied that it was too early to comment on that.

According to a recent survey published by Alma Media, Haavisto, 61, is so far the overwhelming front-runner to succeed President Sauli Niinistö, whose second and final term ends on 1 March 2024.

In the poll, former Greens chair and UN official Haavisto garnered 33 percent support. The second-most popular candidate at this early stage was Centre Party veteran and former European Commissioner Olli Rehn with 11 percent support. Rehn, 57, took over as Governor of the Bank of Finland last year.

In the first and only round of this past spring's presidential election, Haavisto came in a distant second to Niinistö, picking up 12.4 percent compared to 62.7 percent for the incumbent.

In their previous match-up during the 2012 election, Niinistö defeated Haavisto in the second round by a margin of roughly 63 to 37 percent.

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