'Gathering of Russian military along Ukrainian border concerning'

De-escalation of crisis 'very important,' says Finland's foreign minister.

'Gathering of Russian military along Ukrainian border concerning'

The gathering of the Russian military along the Ukrainian border is concerning, said Finland's foreign minister.

"And now also the start of the military exercise between Belarus and Russia is concerning because the Belarus border is there very close to the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv," Pekka Haavisto said in an interview with Anadolu Agency during his visit in Ankara.

"And of course, people start to be concerned about the issue of if something bad happens if the military intervention will happen," Haavisto said. "This will also actually have a negative result in the economy of Ukraine."

Noting that de-escalation of the crisis is "very important," he said: "Minsk Agreements are the only way out of this problem."

Finland doesn't have any preparations for NATO membership

Haavisto said Finland's current security status has been serving them well.

He noted that the majority of Finns have been so far pleased with Finland's close cooperation with NATO without being a member.

"We are actually investing our security more than 2% of our GDP. And we have a conscription army. We have a reserve of 280,000 people, so basically, every man and many women have been in military service and so forth," he said. "This is something that we are doing for our own security."

Answering whether Finland is going to join NATO or not, the minister said "in current circumstances, we are pleased with our current position."

"But of course, we see many worrying trends in Europe. And what we have said is that 'we appreciate that NATO keeps open doors for new members. And we appreciate the possibility for countries like Finland, themselves to decide whether they want to be members or not," he said.

"But currently, we don't have any preparations for NATO membership."

Bilateral ties between Finland, Turkiye

Haavisto said that although the COVID-19 affected tourism, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is "good."

Turkiye and Finland also have the potential to expand bilateral trade, he said, adding that Foreign Trade Minister Ville Skinnari is planning to come also to Turkiye with the business delegation in June.

He said Finland and Turkiye should cooperate and are already cooperating on political issues.

"We are both supporting the Friends of Mediation Group in United Nations," he said.

"Well, of course, the trade volume is not as high as it could be," he continued. "And of course also the COVID time has been limiting the traveling of the business delegations and businessmen and so forth."

Underlining that Finland is "very proud of" its environmental technology, education system, digitalization solutions, he said all could be sectors where they could enhance the bilateral cooperation."

Friends of Mediation Initiative

Friends of Mediation Initiative is actually now a growing group of countries who are thinking that mediation is the best way of solving the conflicts and also that we can learn from different mediation practices, he said.

"And we have been actually underlying two UN resolutions together with Turkiye. One is women's peace and security, the UN resolution 1325. Another is the youth peace and security, UN resolution 2250," he said.

"We both countries are supporting these ideas that women and youth to be more engaged in the peace process."

The minister also said Finland has always been "quite supportive" of Turkiye's EU membership process.