During a protest in Stockholm on Saturday, the leader of a Danish far-right-wing political party burnt a copy of the Quaran outside the Turkish embassy. Earlier in January, Kurdish protestors in Sweden hanged an effigy of Erdogan.
Both incidents have strained relations between Sweden and Turkey. For Sweden, the souring of relations represents another roadblock toward its bid for NATO membership, which has become a national security priority since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Erdogan tells Sweden not to expect support from Turkey
“Sweden should not expect support from us for Nato,” said the Turkish president on Monday, following protests in the Swedish capital which have caused a decline in relations between the two countries.
“It is clear that those who caused such a disgrace in front of our country’s embassy can no longer expect any benevolence from us regarding their application,” Erdogan continued.
Officials in Ankara were angered over the Quran-burning incident in Stockholm. During the demonstration, Rasmus Paludan – who according to media reports is the leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line – burned a copy of the Quran.
Just prior to the Quran-burning incident, Turkey called off a meeting with Sweden’s defense minister, Pål Jonson. Ankara scrapped the meeting because of the decision by Swedish authorities to allow the protest.
Earlier in January, a pro-Kurdish group called the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava published pictures of an effigy of the Turkish president hanged near Stockholm City Hall. The Swedish ambassador to Turkey was summoned over the incident and a planned visit by Sweden’s parliamentary Speaker to Ankara was scrapped altogether.
The protest on Saturday was given approval by the Swedish authorities to commence, although not the book burning itself. Most Swedish officials have condemned the sentiment of the protest but have also defended the rights of protestors to express themselves in the country.
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Tobias Billström tweeted “Islamophobic provocations are appalling. Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed.”
Turning his attention to the difficulties associated with Sweden’s NATO membership bid, Billström also commented “Sweden will respect the agreement that exists between Sweden, Finland and Turkey regarding our Nato membership.”
NATO membership debacle
Swedish officials have been left in an awkward position by the protests. For months, together with neighboring Finland, the two Northern European countries have been grappling with the NATO ascension process.
In May 2022, when the question of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland was raised, Turkey indicated that it would veto any attempts by the two countries to join the alliance.
“We do not have a positive opinion. Scandinavian countries are like a guest house for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said last May.
Then, in June last year, Erdogan lifted the Turkish veto on Swedish and Finnish NATO membership.
However, according to Article 10 of the alliance’s founding document, the decision to permit the entry of a new member to NATO must be met “by unanimous agreement”. This means that Turkish ratification is necessary for Sweden and Finland to join the alliance.
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