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President Niinistö to join NATO summit

The news that Niinistö will take part in the NATO conference comes amid speculation over a possible Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki. The location of that meeting will be announced on Thursday.

Sauli Niinistö ja Jens Stoltenberg
President Sauli Niinistö and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met at NATO headquarters in late 2016. Image: NIDS

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö will take part in the NATO summit in Brussels on 11-12 July, the Council of State announced on Wednesday. Finland is not a member of the military alliance, but is a close associate.

Niinistö will lead a nine-member delegation. It will include Ambassador Piritta Asunmaa, head of Finland’s mission to NATO, as well as officials from the foreign and defence ministries and the president’s office. The delegation will also be accompanied by several foreign ministry experts.

More troops to Afghanistan

At the Brussels meeting, leaders of the 29 member states are to discuss issues such as the Resolute Support peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan, in which Finland is also participating.

On Wednesday Niinistö signed an earlier-agreed decision to re-expand Finland’s involvement from the current 30 soldiers up to 60.

Neighbouring Sweden, which like Finland has an “enhanced” membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, is also invited to the biennial summit.

In early June a NATO official told several Finnish journalists that NATO has closer cooperation with Finland and Sweden than with any other countries.

Announcement on US-Russian summit on Thursday

The announcement by Niinistö’s office came a day after Reuters and US politics website Politico reported that Helsinki is under serious consideration as a potential meeting place for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet his US counterpart Donald Trump in mid-July – potentially in the two-day window between the NATO summit and the football World Cup final in Moscow on 15 July.

US national security adviser John Bolton was in Moscow on Wednesday amid speculation that he might announce a Putin-Trump summit during the visit.

Moscow and Washington have struck a deal to hold such a summit soon, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Wednesday evening. Ushakov said the summit would take place in a mutually-convenient third country and that several more weeks were needed for preparations. He said Moscow and Washington would announce the time and place of the summit on Thursday.

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