President of the Republic and Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy discuss Ukraine situation and Finland’s participation in international crisis management

Government Communications Department
Press release 426/2014

The President of the Republic and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy convened on Friday 3 October 2014.

Violence in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has receded as a result of the ceasefire agreement for eastern Ukraine, although the truce has been continuously violated.  The setting up of a buffer zone and the pulling out of heavy artillery from the front line are positive steps. Finland is of the opinion that efforts to reach a political solution must be continued. The EU should give its strong support to Ukraine and President Poroshenko in the implementation of the ceasefire protocol and to stabilise the situation. The truce facilitates the organisation of elections as planned on 26 October. The reform of the Ukrainian administration and fight against corruption must be carried forward without delay. An independent inquiry must be conducted regarding the unmarked graves found near Donetsk and the guilty brought to justice. Russia must pull out all its soldiers and weapons from Ukraine. Border control cooperation must be initiated.

The humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine is serious and requires support from the international community. According to the UN, the number of internally displaced persons has reached almost 300,000 and at the same time approximately 340,000 people have fled the hostilities abroad. This year, Finland has provided EUR 500,000 through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and another EUR 500,000 through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

Finland supports the OSCE’s efforts to stabilise the situation in Ukraine. The strength of the OSCE mission monitoring the ceasefire should be increased to its maximum size of 500 observers. The mission is responsible for monitoring the buffer zone and the border against Russia in eastern Ukraine. Finland will increase its financial support and number of observers involved in the mission.

Progress in the gas negotiations between the EU, Ukraine and Russia is key for resolving the situation. The concentration of the Russian armed forces in Crimea and the mounting pressure on the Crimean Tatars are a cause of concern. The EU sanctions remain a justified way of influencing Russia.

The Committee also discussed Finland’s participation in military crisis management. The EU is making preparations to continue the EUFOR RCA operation in the Central African Republic, which is to end in December, by a maximum of six months. This will pave the way for handing over the duties to a UN peacekeeping operation. To that end, Finland is preparing to continue its participation in the operation with a maximum of 30 soldiers. The Committee also discussed the possibility to continue Finland’s participation in the UNIFIL operation in Lebanon after May 2015. The issue will be brought to the Committee later this autumn.

The Committee was briefed about the implementation of the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions and the related international situation. There have been no such changes in the circumstances that would enable Finland to join the convention.

Inquiries: Terhi Hakala, Director-General, tel. +358 295 351 300 (Ukraine situation) and Kirsti Kauppi, Director General, tel. +358 295 351 561, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Helena Partanen, Director of Unit, tel. +358 295 140 310, Ministry of Defence, (crisis management, convention on cluster munitions)