Finnish, Russian presidents to meet on border issues

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Helsinki, Feb 13 (IANS) Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will visit Russia in March for talks with Russian leaders on issues relating to the border crossings between the two countries.

Niinisto was invited by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday in Munich where both were attending the Munich Security Conference, Xinhua reported.

The Finnish president said border-crossing asylum seekers to Finland have created “a new phenomenon.”

In the past six months, Russia has allowed people without a Finnish visa to cross over to Finland. Those people were either foreigners who have lived in Russia for a long time or refugees in transit via Russia.

Russia has said publicly that it could not restrict the right of the people to leave the country. It was referring to the European convention on human rights.

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As both Finland and Russia are safe countries, “there should not be grounds for the asylum seekers to move from one country to the other,” Niinisto said.

A Finnish media report said Russia would not adopt measures to tighten its border control and Finland had few bargaining chips on the issue. The solution depends on “the good will of Russia,” it said.

In his response, Medvedev said the refugee situation marked “a total failure of the European refugee policy.” He called for bilateral negotiations based on existing international commitments between the two countries.

In a 1960 Finnish-Soviet agreement on border management, both countries committed themselves to preventing “illegal crossings of the border.”

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