The President of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, announced today that he will visit Israel between January 21-24.
The announcement of the visit, which will include meetings with the Israeli Heads of State and Government, comes amid escalating tension between the United States and Iran, after the launch of missiles against two US military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the murder of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
The President of Finland and the Government of Helsinki have strongly condemned the missile attacks launched by Iran. In addition, Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto has demanded and explanation from his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif for bombing bases that also house peacekeeping troops from several countries, including Finns.
Israel is the main ally of the United States in the Middle East region. And it has also been in the last two decades the main target of the threats of the Ayatollah regime.
However, state visits are usually planned well in advance, so, in principle, the announcement of Niinisto's trip to Israel should not be interpreted by Iran as an unfriendly gesture.
Relations between Helsinki and Tehran have been good in recent years. The Finnish president made an official visit to Iran in 2016, in which he met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and with President Hassan Rouhani.
The Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Javad Zarif, also visited Finland in August 2019.
To Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
According to a press release by the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland, Niinistö's programme in Israel will include visits to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a bilateral meeting with President Reuven Rivlin and a dinner with the Heads of State and Government as well as other meetings.
During his visit to Jerusalem, the Finnish President will attend the World Holocaust Forum, which will be held at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, on Thursday 23 January to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.
The President's Office said that close to 40 Heads of State and Government will participate in the event at the invitation of President of Israel Reuven Rivlin. Previously, this forum has been held in Poland in 2005 and 2010, Ukraine in 2006 and the Czech Republic in 2015.
The visit will also celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Finland and Israel.