Finland PM sorry for not checking picture with Turkish president

Image copyright BBC Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila has apologised for failing to ensure young people were isolated after their picture with the Turkish President was published. It followed claims of Turkey’s arms exports…

Finland PM sorry for not checking picture with Turkish president

Image copyright BBC

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila has apologised for failing to ensure young people were isolated after their picture with the Turkish President was published.

It followed claims of Turkey’s arms exports to Lebanon being funded by Fikri Karayilan, the leader of the Free Syrian Army and a former councillor in Raqqa.

Mr Sipila had been criticised after the picture of several members of Finland’s youth centre Lappeenranta played on social media.

He said he had not spotted it, but was “very sorry” for the apparent lapse in judgement.

The Finnish government last week said there was no evidence that those pictured were receiving weapons from Turkey.

“I would like to apologise for what happened,” Mr Sipila told reporters on Sunday.

“I would also like to apologise for not really knowing anything more, not having been fully informed about this. It is really important that we find out the context of all these situations, and also appropriate measures will be taken, including I hope more training for security forces who work in common zones.”

Lappeenranta, which has around 500 youths at its three youth centres, has also distanced itself from Mr Karayilan.

In the picture, taken during Mr Karayilan’s visit to Lappeenranta in June last year, he and several youths are all wearing camouflage gear, goggles and helmets.

The group pose in an opulent room with a picture of Mr Karayilan above the fireplace and books piled up on the shelf.

“I can’t tell if [this] is terrorism propaganda or a real organisation,” one member of the Finnish Youth Movement told local media at the time.

Mr Karayilan is a Kurdish Kurd who has been linked to many rebel groups, including Hezbollah and the Free Syrian Army.

Mr Sipila’s government, which is riding high in the polls, is heading for a third election this year, with current opinion polls putting his Centre Party only four points ahead of the Centre Alliance, which it has been in coalition with since 2014.

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