HELSINKI, Finland (AP) – Finland’s foreign minister said Wednesday his country will use its presidency of the European Union later this year to try to repair ties between Europe and Muslim countries following the outrage over the Prophet Mohammad caricatures.
In a letter sent to newspaper editors in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja appealed to the Islamic world for restraint and calm over the publication of drawings, and denounced the violent protests by demonstrators in several countries.
“I would like to appeal for mutual restraint and calm, in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect,” Tuomioja said in the letter to editors in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and several other countries.
He described the publication of the cartoons as “unwise,” adding that “it is but common sense to regret and apologize for them.” But he also condemned the violent protests.
“It is necessary to underline that the reaction, when it has taken violent forms, including the burning of diplomatic missions and aggression against international peacekeepers, is unacceptable,” Tuomioja wrote.
Tuomioja said Finland, which takes over the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union in July, will seek to improve ties with Muslim countries.
“One of our main objectives during this time will be to seek a strong engagement with the Islamic world,” he said.