ANKARA, Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Wednesday (Feb 1) that Turkey will not allow Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance as long as it permits protests desecrating Islam’s holy book to take place.
Turkey, which has been holding off approving Sweden and Finland’s membership in the Western military alliance, has been infuriated by a series of demonstrations in Stockholm by activists who have burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy and hanged an effigy of Erdogan. It has indefinitely postponed a key meeting in Brussels that would have discussed the two Nordic countries’ entry into NATO.
“Sweden, don’t even bother! As long as you allow my holy book, the Quran, to be burned and torn, and you do so together with your security forces, we will not say ‘yes’ to your entry into NATO,” Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling party’s legislators.
Swedish government officials have distanced themselves from the protests, induced by a far-right anti-Islam activist who burned copies of the Quran in Stockholm and Copenhagen, Denmark, while also stressing that the demonstrations are protected by freedom of speech.
On Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson denounced the activists who carried out the demonstrations as “useful idiots” for foreign powers who want to inflict harm on the Scandinavian country as it seeks to join NATO.
“We have seen how foreign actors, even state actors, have used these manifestations to inflame the situation in a way that is directly harmful to Swedish security,” Kristersson told reporters in Stockholm, without naming any countries.