Erdogan to Sweden: Don’t expect Turkish support for NATO bid after protest in Stockholm

ANKARA, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – Sweden should not expect support from Turkey for its NATO membership after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm over the weekend included the burning of a copy of the Quran, President Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.

Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have heightened tensions with Turkey, whose support Sweden needs to gain access to the military alliance.

“Those who allow such profanity in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said in a speech after a cabinet meeting.

“If you love and protect members of terrorist organizations and enemies of Islam so much, then we recommend that you seek their support for the security of your country,” he said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom immediately declined to comment on Erdogan’s remarks, saying in a written statement to Reuters that he wanted to understand exactly what had been said.

“But Sweden will respect the agreement that exists between Sweden, Finland and Turkey on our NATO membership,” he added.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Ankara has previously said that Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Finland and Sweden are ready to join the alliance, but declined to comment on whether Washington thought Erdogan’s remarks meant a final closing of the door. meant to them.

“Ultimately, this is a decision and consensus that Finland and Sweden will have to reach with Turkey,” Price said.

Price told reporters that burning books that are sacred to many is a deeply disrespectful act, adding that the United States is aware that those who may be behind what happened in Sweden are deliberately trying to promote unity across the Atlantic and between Washington’s European allies. .

“We have a saying in this country: something can be lawful but horrible. I think what we’ve seen in the context of Sweden falls into that category in this case,” Price said.

The Quran burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who is also a Swedish citizen, has staged a number of demonstrations in the past where he burned the Quran.

Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait denounced the event. Turkey had already summoned the Swedish ambassador and canceled a planned visit by the Swedish defense minister to Ankara.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Huseyin Hayatsever; Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard in Stockholm and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Edited by Hugh Lawson and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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