Finland, France and Germany to set up a task force for the hostage crisis

Finland, France and Germany have decided to establish a joint task force to assist the Philippine government in their efforts to resolve the hostage crisis. Finland´s special representative Holger Rotkirch arrived in Manila this morning. He will later have a meeting with the French and German envoys to discuss the operations of the task force. According to the latest reports, the location of the hostages is known to the Philippine authorities and they are all alive.

Finland will appeal to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, OIC, for assistance. The Finnish Ambassador in Riad, Kaj Granholm, received instructions to that effect today.

A letter from the foreign ministers of Finland, France and Germany, Erkki Tuomioja, Hubert Védrine and Joschka Fischer, was delivered to their Philippine counterpart, Domingo Siazon, today in which they emphasised the utmost importance of finding a peaceful solution to the abduction and offered the assistance of additional mediators.

"We trust that you and the authorities in the Philippines will explore all avenues towards resolving the matter while avoiding harm to the victims, and if assistance of additional mediators should hold prospects of arriving at such a solution it should, in our view, not be excluded from future deliberations", they said.

Two Finnish, two French and three German citizens are among the 21 hostages seized by guerrillas on 23 April and taken to the southern Philippines.