STOCKHOLM, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Demonstrations in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, including burning a Koran, deepened tensions with Turkey at a time when the Nordic country needs Ankara’s support to join. to the military alliance.
“We strongly oppose the heinous attack on our holy book… Allowing an anti-Islamic act, which attacks Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of our freedom of speech is unacceptable,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. he said.
His comments came after a far-right anti-immigrant politician burned a Koran near the Turkish embassy. The Ministry of Health in Turkey urged Sweden to take action against the perpetrators and has asked all countries to take action against Islamic violence.
A separate demonstration was held in the city in support of the Kurds and against Sweden’s bid to join NATO. A pro-Turkey protest group also held a rally outside the embassy. All three incidents had police warrants.
Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tobias Billstrom, said that Islamophobic propaganda is dangerous.
“Sweden has the right to speak, but that does not mean that the Swedish Government, or I, agree with the views that have been expressed,” Billstrom said on Twitter.
The burning of the Koran was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the Danish Hard Line party. Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has held several protests in the past where he burned the Koran.
Paludan could not immediately be reached by email for comment. In the warrant he received from the police, he said his protests were against Islam and what he called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to influence free speech in Sweden.
Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait condemned the burning of the Koran. “Saudi Arabia wants to spread the principles of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, rejecting hatred and extremism,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but all 30 member states must approve their applications. Turkey has said that Sweden in particular must take decisive action against what it sees as terrorists, particularly Kurdish rebels and a group it blames for the 2016 coup attempt.
At a demonstration against NATO’s invitation to Sweden and to show support for the Kurds, speakers stood in front of a large red banner “We are all PKK”, referring to the Kurdistan Workers Party which is banned in Turkey, Sweden, and the United States. among other countries, and addressed several hundred Kurdish and leftist supporters.
“We will continue to oppose Sweden’s NATO mission,” Thomas Pettersson, spokesman for the Alliance Against NATO and one of the organizers of the protest, told Reuters.
Police said the situation was peaceful at all three protests.
THE DEFENSE MINISTER’S VISIT IS CANCELED
Earlier on Saturday, Turkey said that due to the lack of measures to stop the protests, it canceled a planned visit to Ankara by the Swedish defense minister.
“In the meantime, the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson to Turkey on January 27 has been meaningless. So we canceled the trip,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
Jonson said separately that he and Akar met on Friday at a conference of European allies in Germany and decided to cancel the meeting.
Akar said that he discussed with Erdogan about the lack of measures to stop the protests in Sweden against Turkey and reported Ankara’s actions to Jonson on the sidelines of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting.
“It is not acceptable to remain inactive or take action on these (protests). Important things must be done, steps must be taken,” Akar said, according to a statement from the Turkish Ministry of Defense.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry had already summoned the Swedish ambassador on Friday over the planned protests.
Finland and Sweden signed a three-way pact with Turkey in 2022 to counter Ankara’s objections to its membership in NATO. Sweden says it has fulfilled its part of the memorial but Turkey wants more, including the return of 130 people it considers terrorists.
(This article has been corrected to remove Morocco’s error in the ninth paragraph)
Reporting by Omer Berberoglu in Istanbul and Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson in Stockholm Additional reporting by Moaz Abd-Alaziz in Cairo By Ezgi Erkoyun and Niklas Pollard Editing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry
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