Estimated reading time 2 minutes 2 Min

No NATO support: Turkey tells Sweden

Violent protests in Sweden over the weekend – including the burning of the Koran – have damaged its chances of NATO membership.

January 24, 2023
By AAP
24 January 2023

Sweden should not expect Turkey’s support for its NATO membership after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm at the weekend including the burning of a copy of the Koran, President Tayyip Erdogan says.

Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and against Sweden’s bid to join NATO, during which a copy of the Koran was burned, have heightened tensions with Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to gain entry to the military alliance.

“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy (in Stockholm) can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said in a speech after a cabinet meeting on Monday.

“If you love members of terrorist organisations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, then we advise you to seek their support for your countries’ security,” he said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom declined to immediately comment on Erdogan’s remarks, telling Reuters in a written statement he wanted to understand exactly what had been said.

“But Sweden will respect the agreement that exists between Sweden, Finland and Turkey regarding our NATO membership,” he added.

The Koran-burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who also has Swedish citizenship, has held a number of demonstrations in the past where he has burned the Koran.

Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait denounced the incident.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Ankara has previously said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Turkey had already summoned Sweden’s ambassador about the incident, cancelled a planned visit by Swedish defence minister to Ankara and strongly condemned the event.

More in Top Stories