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NATO mebership to be decided by Finns: President

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto

The Finnish president says the country’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be decided through referendum.

"We had a referendum on [Finland’s] accession to the EU. In this case, we are talking about the issue of a similar scale," Sauli Niinisto told reporters on Saturday.

However, he said Finland’s current government will not call referendum on the issue as its term of office will soon expire.

Niinisto expressed hope that the country’s new government, which will be formed following the parliamentary elections in April, will not rule out the idea of joining the bloc.

"In any case, I hope it [the new government] will not exclude the possibility altogether," the president stated.

The official also admitted that NATO accession will not be realized in the near future as more Finnish people are against the plan than for it.

"The latest public opinion poll showed that only 26% of Finns are for accession to NATO, while 43% are against. To make such a decision, we also need at least two-thirds of votes in the parliament. These are facts,” Niinisto pointed out.

“Moreover, the current situation shows that many people in the West are saying that filing for accession [to NATO] now is not very wise," he added, possibly referring to the current tensions between Finland’s eastern neighbor, Russia, and NATO over the Ukrainian crisis.

NATO-Moscow relations have been extremely tense in recent months. NATO and Kiev accuse the Kremlin of supporting pro-Russia forces in east Ukraine. Russia categorically denies the allegations, saying NATO is responsible for the flare-up in Ukraine.

The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia protesters and the Ukrainian army since Kiev’s military operation started in April 2014 in a bid to crush the protests.


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