Finnish PM: Iceland air surveillance ‘an exercise’

Finland’s premier has said that the country’s possible commitment to assist with a NATO effort in patrolling Icelandic airspace will not be a combat mission but merely a series of peacetime training exercises.

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen’s comments came after a meeting with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of NATO.

Rasmussen took the opportunity to explain member-states’ roles in the operation. He said during the address, “Finland is a model partner for NATO, because you fully understand the importance of cooperative security. And you have demonstrated a strong commitment to make it a reality,” reports.

Katainen told the media after the meeting that Finland would not participate in “interception flights”, and that the tasks it does undertake will not be considered combat. He went on to add that Finnish and Swedish patrol aircraft would remain unarmed during the effort, as per standard NATO protocol.

The country’s proposed involvement in the joint Nordic effort has drawn mixed reactions, as many fear the programme could fray Finland’s ties with Russia and challenge the country’s neutrality. No official word has yet been issued on whether or not Finland’s opposition party will back the scheme.

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