Turkey’s president says Sweden should not expect support from Ankara in its bid to join the military alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Sweden not to expect his support to join NATO after a Koran was burned outside Ankara’s embassy in Stockholm during protests.
“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy.” [in Stockholm] they can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said on Monday, in his first official response to the far-right politician’s act during a weekend protest sanctioned by Swedish police.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members that have not ratified the Nordic neighbors’ historic decision to end their tradition of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has promised that his parliament will approve the two offers next month.
But Erdogan has dug in his heels heading into a close election in which he is trying to strengthen his nationalist electoral base.
“If you don’t show respect for the religious beliefs of the Republic of Turkey or Muslims, you won’t get any support for NATO.” [membership] from us,” he said, calling the burning of the Koran an attack on Turkey’s 85 million citizens.
Sweden reacted extremely cautiously to Erdogan’s remarks.
“I cannot comment on the statement tonight.” First, I want to understand what exactly was said,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told Swedish news agency TT.
The burning of the Koran was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has held a series of demonstrations in the past where he burned the Koran.
Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, condemned the incident.
Swedish leaders strongly condemned Paludan’s actions, but defended their country’s broad definition of free speech.
“I want to express my sympathy to all Muslims who are offended by what happened in Stockholm today,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Erdogan has already set a string of tough conditions, including demanding that Sweden extradite dozens of mostly Kurdish suspects Ankara accuses of either “terrorism” or involvement in a failed 2016 coup.
Sweden’s courtship of Turkey appeared to be progressing with a series of visits by top ministers to Ankara.
Stockholm also passed a constitutional amendment that would allow tougher anti-terror laws to be passed as demanded by Ankara.
But things took a turn for the worse when a small Kurdish group hung an effigy of Erdogan outside Stockholm’s city hall earlier this month.
Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador and revoked the invitation of the speaker of the parliament to visit Ankara.
The Swedish police’s decision to approve Paludan’s protests provoked a similar response.
Turkey invited the Stockholm ambassador to another dressing-down and canceled the planned visit of the Swedish defense minister.