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Ahtisaari: Assad's role should be decided by a democratically elected body

President Martti Ahtisaari offered his frank assessment of a number of global and national issues at a meeting with political journalists in Helsinki on Tuesday.

President Martti Ahtisaari offered his frank assessment of a variety of global and national issues at a lunch event organised by the Finnish Association of Political Journalists on Tuesday.

Ahtisaari estimated that the ability of the global community to resolve the long-running conflict in Syria is contingent on an agreement between Russia and the United States: “The resolution hinges on two countries: Russia and the United States must find an agreement,” he underscored.

He reminded that the recent agreement to seek a cessation of hostilities Syria is only a small step in the right direction and called attention to the importance of formulating a concrete roadmap for a political transition in the conflict-torn country.

The Nobel Peace Laureate insisted he is nevertheless not an advocate of ousting President Bashar al-Assad. “I haven't proposed that Assad be ousted but that parliamentary elections be organised. What's needed is a democratically elected body to determine the role of Assad,” he pointed out.

The stakeholders in the conflict received little praise from Ahtisaari. “A more strategic approach could've established peace as early as in 2012,” he argued.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia, warned earlier this week that the world is sliding towards a new Cold War. How exactly should Finland conduct itself in regards to his statement and Russia in general?

“We always have to maintain a business-like approach,” replied Ahtisaari. “It's been claimed in Russia that the West and Nato pose a military threat to Russia. That's absolutely not true in my opinion.”

“The West has offered its partnership to Russia. The offer has sometimes been taken up, sometimes not.”

“Nato isn't even capable of threatening Russia. Russia itself is the cause of the problems,” he said, referring to the instability in Syria and Ukraine.

The European Union should according to him continue its diplomatic efforts to find a rational settlement that is in the best interest of all stakeholders.

Ahtisaari was similarly frank in his assessment of Paavo Väyrynen, a Member of the European Parliament, and his recent announcement to withdraw from the decision-making bodies of the Centre Party and establish his own political party to pursue an exit from the European Union.

“I would've rather hoped that he would start advocating his own exit from politics. That'd be the best service Paavo Väyrynen could do,” he slammed.

Ahtisaari also commented briefly on two of the candidates in the running to take over the White House, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: “The gentlemen are indeed very different. One says he's a social democrat, the other is talking through his hat.”

The United States, he estimated, is no longer the model country it was in 1977. “Saying ‘look at the United States as an example’ is hard these days. The opportunities are better in the Nordics, if they only look after the welfare state,” he argued.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi