Trkiye has accused Sweden of not fulfilling its obligations to crack down on “terrorist” groups and exterminate theirs “propaganda” under a deal it had signed to earn Ankara’s blessing to join NATO. The latest diplomatic spat comes after an anti-Islam activist was allowed to burn a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Allowing this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ is completely unacceptable.”
Anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish lawyer who leads the right-wing Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party in Denmark, set fire to a copy of the holy book at a small demonstration in Stockholm earlier on Saturday, with permission and under heavy police protection, even as the authorities tried to distance themselves from the provocative stunt.
Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billström said his country has one “far-reaching freedom of expression, but that does not mean that the Swedish government, or myself, support the views expressed.”
In a separate statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said damned the demonstration which “a flagrant violation of Sweden’s commitment under the Trilateral Memorandum regarding the prevention of propaganda from terrorist organizations.” underlines it “declaring oneself bound by the commitments… and fulfilling them are two different matters.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top press aide, Fahrettin Altun, added that “Swedish authorities must wake up to the reality of the terrorist groups’ intention to prevent Sweden’s NATO membership by poisoning their relationship with us.”
Last June, Sweden and Finland signed a three-way agreement with Turkey, designed to address Ankara’s concerns about aid to “terrorism” and restrictions on arms sales. The two Nordic countries pledged to condemn and extradite individuals Ankara accuses of terrorism, namely those said to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other groups.
Currently, Turkey and Hungary are the only two members of the US-led bloc that have yet officially approved Sweden’s NATO bid. Even before the latest incident, ties between Ankara and Stockholm were strained after a group of protesters hoisted a picture of Erdogan on a bridge near Stockholm City Hall last week.
The diplomatic spat forced Ankara to cancel a planned visit on January 27 by Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson, with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, saying that “at this point” the meeting “has become neither important nor meaningful.”