Ankara has canceled the planned visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson, his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, revealed on Saturday. The move comes after members of the Kurdish community held an anti-Turkish protest in Stockholm.
“At this point, Sweden’s Defense Minister Jonson’s visit to Trkiye on January 27 has become neither important nor meaningful. Therefore, we have canceled the visit.” Akar told reporters on Saturday. He added that his country was quiet “evaluate” how Sweden and Finland fulfilled their obligations to Turkey amid their applications to join NATO.
“We expect Sweden and Finland to do their homework,” said the minister.
Jonson tweeted that the ministers “decided … to postpone the planned meeting in Ankara until later.”
Last week, Ankara summoned the Swedish ambassador after a picture of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hung upside down on a lamppost in the Swedish capital on January 12. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström condemned the act as “obnoxious.”
However, Swedish authorities rejected Ankara’s call for an investigation, saying the protesters had not broken any laws. The move sparked further outrage in Trkiye, which considers Kurdish political and militant groups, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to be terrorist organizations.
Relations between Sweden and Turkey further deteriorated after the Nordic country’s police allowed Rasmus Paludan, an anti-Islam activist and leader of a less extreme right-wing Danish party, Stram Kurs (Hard Line), to burn a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm . Police said the act falls under freedom of expression. This prompted the Turkish authorities to summon the Swedish envoy for the second time, local media reported on Friday.
Left-wing Swedish newspaper Flamman on Tuesday launched a competition for the best satirical drawing of Erdogan, with a prize of 10,000 kroner ($971). The newspaper accused the Turkish president of “trying to pressure Sweden to deport Kurds and limit freedom of expression.”
The language comes as Sweden and Finland hope that Ankara will not block their path to becoming NATO members. Last year, Trkiye gave the green light for the start of the accession process in exchange for the two Nordic countries taking up requests to extradite people with suspected links to the PKK and similar groups.
Trkiye has since accused Sweden of not fulfilling its obligations under the NATO agreement, as the country’s courts rejected some extradition bids.