Sweden should not expect Turkey's support for its NATO membership bid after a copy of the Quran was burned in a Stockholm protest, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. Far-right Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan burnt a copy of the Quran during a protest last Saturday afternoon outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Erdogan said in a speech after a cabinet meeting, "Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership. If you love members of terrorist organizations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, then we advise you to seek their support for your countries' security," he added.
The Swedish government distanced itself from the action, but referred to the freedom of expression that applies in the Nordic country. "Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote on Twitter, "But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act," he added. His Tweet, on Saturday, was too late to stop Turkey from cancelling a planned visit by Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson. Ankara also summoned Stockholm's ambassador for a dressing down.
On Sunday, dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul, where they burned a Swedish flag. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom declined to comment on Erdogan's remarks immediately on Monday. He, however, did say, "Sweden will respect the agreement that exists between Sweden, Finland and Turkey regarding our NATO membership," .
Sweden is trying to convince Turkey to ratify it and Finland's bids to join NATO. For a bid to succeed, it would need support from all the military alliance members. Turkey and Hungary were the only holdouts, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has promised that his parliament would ratify the two bids next month. Even before the weekend events, Turkey demanded Stockholm hand over Kurdish activists. Erdogan, on Monday, again criticized Sweden for allowing pro-Kurdish groups, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to hold rallies in the country. The PKK is considered a terrorist group in Turkey, the European Union and the United States, but its symbols are not banned in Sweden.
"So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and then expect our support for getting into NATO. That's not happening,'' Erdogan said.
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