Both Turkey and Finland are striving for peaceful solutions to regional and global conflicts, Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.
In an interview published by Anadolu Agency (AA), Haavisto evaluated bilateral relations and regional issues during his visit to Turkey in which he met with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
"Both countries seek peaceful solutions to conflicts. Minister Çavuşoğlu told us about the last visit of Turkey to Ukraine at the level of the head of state and the minister of foreign affairs. Of course, we exchanged views on the current Russia-Ukraine conflict," he said.
Haavisto stated that it is worrying that Russia has increased its military presence on the border with Ukraine and that Russia and Belarus are holding joint military exercises.
World leaders, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, are working to resolve the row peacefully. To that end, Turkey has offered to host a peace summit between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine.
Russia recently massed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor. Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises. The Kremlin also issued a list of security demands from the West, including a rollback of troop deployments to some ex-Soviet states and guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia will not join NATO.
Ankara has previously offered to help defuse the standoff and Turkish diplomatic sources have said both Russia and Ukraine were open to the idea. Turkey has opposed the sanctions threatened by other NATO members in response to a military incursion by Russia.
Turkey shares the Black Sea with Ukraine and Russia. Erdoğan has said the conflict would be unacceptable in the region and warned Russia that an invasion would be unwise.
If Turkey is assigned a mediator role following the meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Ankara will accept the offer to help in the Ukrainian crisis in this capacity and will try to do its part, Erdoğan also said.
Erdoğan’s visit to Turkey’s fellow Black Sea nation came after visits to Kyiv by leaders of NATO members Britain, Poland and the Netherlands amid the standoff. Turkey has good ties with Kyiv and Moscow but has said it would do what is necessary as a NATO member if Russia invades.
Stating that Turkey and Finland cooperate on many issues inclıding trade and tourism, Haavisto added: "We cooperate on many political issues and we should. As both countries, we support the U.N. Group of Friends for Mediation and focus on the role of women and youth in peace processes. (With Çavuşoğlu) we also discussed security issues. We follow the same international crises, such as Afghanistan, Syria and the Horn of Africa. We also discussed the situation in Sudan and Ethiopia, where we both follow the developments closely."
Haavisto noted that the Mediation for Peace Initiative, which Turkey started with Finland 10 years ago, is a group of countries that think that mediation is the best way to resolve disputes and that different mediation practices are instructive.
Stating that Turkey and Finland form the basis of two United Nations resolutions, Haavsito said: "One is U.N. resolution 1325 on women's peace and security. The other is U.N. resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. As two countries, women and young people are more involved in the peace process. We support ideas about being more involved."
Reiterating that Turkey is a member of NATO, of which Finland is not a member, Haavisto stated that they talked with Çavuşoğlu about the policy of keeping NATO's door open to new members.
"It is very important for Finland and Sweden that we can take part together with NATO in military exercises that increase our own security. We also engage in some political discussions with our counterparts in NATO as the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland. And of course, we count on countries like Turkey to support our participation."
Regarding the discussions on whether his country will become a member of NATO in line with the developments in the region, Haavisto said: "Our current security situation is that we are not a member of NATO, but we are in close cooperation with NATO and this situation meets our needs. Most of our people are satisfied with our current policies so far.”
"Under the current circumstances, we are satisfied with our current position. But of course, we see alarming trends in Europe and we welcome the opening of NATO's doors to new members. We also welcome the possibility of countries like Finland deciding whether they want to join. But at the moment, we do not have any preparations for NATO membership."
Haavisto also reiterated that Finland supports Turkey's membership of the European Union and that Turkey received its EU candidacy status at the 1999 Helsinki Summit.
Pointing out that it is important for Turkey to be included in EU programs such as Erasmus, especially for young people, Haavisto said that these programs constitute the way to Turkey-EU cooperation.
Haavisto expressed his satisfaction with the cooperation between Turkey and Finland.
Stating that the Finns love to spend their holidays in Turkey, Haavisto said that he can't wait to see the revival of intercommunal relations after the COVID-19 process.
Stating that they exchanged views on many issues during the visit of Çavuşoğlu to Helsinki last summer, Haavisto recalled that they co-chaired the 11th U.N. Mediation Friends Group Ministerial Meetings, held online on Feb. 1.
Haavisto stated that the two countries were making good progress in bilateral relations. He also added that the temporary decrease in the number of tourists arriving from Finland to holiday regions in France will reverse due to the successful fight against the virus in both countries. Haavisto emphasized that this number will return to its pre-pandemic level.
Drawing attention to the potential of the two countries to increase the foreign trade volume, Haavisto said that Finnish Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Minister Ville Skinnari will visit Turkey in June with a delegation.