'We didn't stay neutral during apartheid': Finnish minister urges SA, Africa to take a stand on Ukraine

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  • Finland's foreign minister says the country did not stay neutral during the apartheid-era and colonisation of the African continent.  
  • Finland applied to become a member of NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • South Africa has taken a non-aligned position on the war. 

HELSINKI - Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto says his country didn't take a neutral stance when injustices such as colonisation and apartheid happened on the African continent. 

Haavisto also said Finland applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) after Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year. Finland and Sweden have both applied for NATO membership in response to the invasion.

He said during the recent Nordic-African Foreign Ministers meeting, he explained to his African counterparts how the security situation had changed. 

Some African countries, including South Africa, have chosen to take a non-aligned position on the matter. South Africa chose to abstain in a vote against Russia by the United Nations General Assembly, which was aimed at suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

Haavisto, in a meeting with African journalists, said while Nordic countries were known for their neutrality, they did not stay silent during critical times in history.  

"We did not stay neutral during apartheid in South Africa. We didn't stay neutral on the colonisation of African countries. As Nordic countries, we were strongly condemning the colonial behaviour of some countries on the African continent.

"We are asking African countries to understand our position in this situation. When international rules are broken, countries should not stay neutral, they must open their mouths and make a stand. But, we understand that all countries have their own policies."

During the ministers' meeting, the South African minister of international relations Naledi Pandor said it should worry the world that Finland was feeling threatened.  

She said: "These are countries [who] have always taken a neutral position when it comes to war. For them to now feel this way about security... For them now to be hugely concerned about security is a worry to the world. It just gives you an illustration of the decline in security internationally."

Haavisto said Finland was worried about security in the region. 

"We analysed the security situation in our area in Europe [it] has changed very dramatically.  We made this decision based on our own security risk."

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