Sweden should not expect Turkey’s support for its NATO membership bid, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday following tensions over anti-Islam protests in Stockholm over the weekend.
He said at a press conference that if Sweden does not show respect to Turkey or Muslims, “they won’t see any support from us on the NATO issue.”
The statement follows protests against Turkey and in support of Kurds on Saturday in the Swedish capital, where anti-immigrant politician Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burned a copy of the Quran near the Turkish embassy.
Erdoğan said Monday the burning was an insult, especially to Muslims, and criticized Sweden for allowing pro-Kurdish protests where demonstrators waved flags including those of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The PKK is considered a terrorist group in Turkey, the European Union and the United States, but Sweden does not ban its symbols.
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“So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and then expect our support for getting into NATO. That’s not happening,” Erdoğan said. Sweden should have calculated the consequences of permitting the demonstration, he added.
Over the weekend, Turkey condemned the demonstration as “vile” and canceled a planned visit by Sweden’s defense chief to Ankara, intended to address Turkey’s objections to Sweden joining NATO.
Ankara had already previously dragged its feet on pledging support for the accession bid, seeking conditions for approval such as the extradition of 130 political opponents from Sweden and Finland.
Sweden has played down the dispute with Turkey over NATO accession, with Foreign Minister Tobias Billström saying in a TV interview on Sunday that the issues are nearly resolved and that Turkey is “close” to starting the ratification process, after he called the Quran-burning “appalling” in a tweet on Saturday.
Sweden, together with Finland, decided to apply together for NATO membership in October last year. Hungary and Turkey are the only two countries that still need to ratify the joint NATO bid; Hungary last November pledged to do so.