Ankara accused Stockholm of allowing a ?direct hate crime? in violation of an agreement to join NATO
Türkiye has accused Sweden of failing to meet its obligations to crack down on “terrorist groups” and root out their “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 way the heinous 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 a permission and under heavy police protection, even as authorities tried to distance themselves from the provocative stunt.
Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billström said his country has a “broad freedom of speech, 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 as “a flagrant violation of Sweden’s commitment according to the Trilateral Memorandum regarding the prevention of propaganda from terrorist organizations”, underlines that “declaring to be bound by the commitments… and fulfilling them are two different issues.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top press aide, Fahrettin Altun, added that “Swedish authorities must wake up to the reality of terrorist groups’ intent to prevent Sweden’s NATO membership by poisoning their relationship with us.”
Last June, Sweden and Finland signed a three-way agreement with Türkiye to address Ankara’s concerns about support for “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. Prior to the latest incident, ties between Ankara and Stockholm were already under strain last week, after a group of protesters hoisted a picture of President Erdogan on a bridge near Stockholm City Hall.
The diplomatic row forced Ankara to cancel a planned January 27 visit by Sweden’s Defense Minister Pal Jonson, along with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, saying that “at this point” the meeting has become “neither important nor meaningful”.