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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Foreign Minister Tuomioja

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0162/01 0670929
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080929Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3045

UNCLAS HELSINKI 000162

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS MARR FI
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH FOREIGN MINISTER TUOMIOJA

REF: A. HELSINKI 144

B. EMBASSY HELSINKI - PEKALA EMAIL 7 MARCH 2007
C. WARE - PEKALA EMAIL 2 MARCH 2007

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Ambassador met with Foreign Minister
Tuomioja to thank him for his helpful comments regarding
the US missile defense initiative with Eastern Europe,
but also to note her disappointment with other public
comments he had made suggesting that the US made grave
mistakes in Iraq and might now repeat those mistakes in
Iran. Tuomioja thanked the US for sharing missile
defense information with Finland and reaffirmed that
Moscow's claims and threats were to be rejected. On the
US in Iran, he noted that there is a widespread public
fear in Europe that the US will resort to military
action and that European politicians have a duty to
respond to questions from voters. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Ambassador met with Finnish Foreign
Minister Erkki Tuomioja and U/S for Political Affairs
Markus Lyra March 7. She thanked the FM for his
positive response to our recent demarche asking that he
make a public statement to help calm the waters in
response to baseless Russian claims and veiled threats
regarding the US intention to place missile defense
assets in the Czech Republic and Poland. (NOTE: A
surprisingly helpful post appeared March 5 on Tuomioja's
campaign web site -- see refs A and B).

3. (SBU) Tuomioja thanked the US for sharing with the
GOF information both on the missile defense initiative
and on the extensive briefings Washington has offered
Moscow. Tuomioja said he had not been asked on-the-
record about the missile defense issue in either his
official capacity or his role as a candidate in the
current election campaign. Strategically, he noted, the
non-threatening nature of the program vis--vis Russia
was clear, and either baseless or threatening comments
about the program were to be "rejected." He did note,
however, that US missile defense has become a political
question in the EU, with Austria having raised it during
the March 5-6 GAERC. The Poles and Czechs responded
adequately, he reported, and the GAERC agreed that the
issue does not fall under EU competencies and should
remain a bilateral one between the US and the
governments concerned -- a judgment Tuomioja said he
fully supports. He and the Ambassador also agreed that
NATO would be a more appropriate forum for exchanges of
information about the missile defense initiative.

4. (SBU) Turning to less pleasant issues, the Ambassador
strongly expressed disappointment with one of Tuomioja's
recent campaign-trail statements. She pointed to the
particularly unhelpful comments he made during an on-
the-record debate before the Swedish-speaking press, in
which Tuomioja said, "One can only hope that the
Americans will not seek to correct their mistakes in
Iraq by making an even bigger mistake in Iran" (Ref C).
The Ambassador noted that she understands the difference
between an office-holder and a candidate, but suggested
that comments such as this and other disagreements over
policy should be discussed in private, not in the
campaign context. The US remains committed to the
diplomatic track in Iran, she added, and Europe and the
US need to remain united.

5. (SBU) Tuomioja said he felt a duty to respond to
Europeans' growing fears about the possibility that
Washington will resort to military strikes against Iran.
"This is a recognizable and significant concern in
Europe," he said; it is reasonable to expect that
worried voters will demand answers from their leaders --
and their candidates -- on an issue like Iran. "I have
always said it is not helpful to talk about a military
option" in Iran, Tuomioja continued, "and I am not
alone." He noted that EU leaders have consistently
voiced that same concern, and the EU Foreign Ministers
reaffirmed their unanimity in support of following the
UN process at the March GAERC. The Ambassador reminded
Tuomioja that the US is committed to the diplomatic
track both by its public comments and actions; he
welcomed that assurance.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Although the conversation addressed
areas of disagreement, the overall tone was cordial;
Tuomioja was open and occasionally expansive, offering
views on a range of other issues, including his party's
chances for success in the upcoming parliamentary
election (septel). Although he did not promise the
Ambassador he would keep differences of opinion over
policy within diplomatic channels, he did welcome the
Ambassador's suggestion for more frequent face-to-face
exchanges, should he be designated Foreign Minister
following the election. END COMMENT.
WARE

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