January 23, 2023
A participant stands with a flag of Turkey as the pro-Turkish organization Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) demonstrates in support of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, on January 21, 2023. © Frederik Sandberg, AFP
ANKARA – “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.
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.
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.
“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,” Erdogan also said.
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.