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Niinistö talks Syria, Nordstream ahead of Kultaranta summit

Speaking to reporters, the Finnish president fielded questions ranging from Finns stranded in Syria to the security implications of Nordstream 2.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö isännöimiensä Kultaranta-keskusteluiden alussa pidettävässä mediatilaisuudessa Naantalissa 16. kesäkuuta.
Finnish president Sauli Niinistö takes questions from reporters on 16 June ahead of the annual Kultaranta summit in Naantali. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Finland on Sunday to attend the 7th annual Kultaranta talks, a two-day round of foreign policy debates arranged at Finnish President Sauli Niinistö's summer residence in Naantali. This year’s theme is how Finland will cope in a changing world.

Before the summit got underway, Niinistö took questions form the press.

Reporters asked whether Finland’s foreign policy priorities would shift with Pekka Haavisto of the Greens taking over the post of foreign minister.

The president said he didn’t see any major changes on the horizon. “But it’s of crucial importance that we talk more about the situation of women and girls,” the president said.

Niinistö did not want to comment on the possible repatriation of Finnish women and children stuck in the Al-Hol camp in Syria, a topic which has made headlines in Finland in recent months.

“Like the previous government and current [interior] minister said, it’s a very multifaceted issue, and I’d like to leave discussions on this matter to a later date when the government has made its position known.”

Journalists also asked Niinistö if Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project posed a security threat for Finland.

Niinistö responded that Germany’s phase-out of nuclear power would leave a large supply to fill. “From a security policy perspective, it’s difficult to understand why a second pipe is a risk when one already exists."

With Finland set to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on 1 July, media representatives wondered if Finland planned to use its position to highlight the situation in eastern Ukraine, parts of which are under Russian-backed separatist rule.

“This issue is and will stay on European agendas,” replied Niinistö, failing to offer more details.

The annual summer security summit, established in 2013, gathers analysts, experts, diplomats and academics to discuss current security and foreign policy issues.

The two-day event continues on Monday when panelists will include Prime Minister Antti Rinne and Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho, among others.

The main discussions of the summit are available on Yle Areena, with Sunday's event broadcast in English.

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