Sweden’s defense minister was scheduled to visit Turkey on Saturday, but Turkey postponed the trip in response to anti-Turkish demonstrations that heightened enmity between the two nations as Sweden seeks Turkey’s approval to join NATO.
Police granted consent to a far-right extremist from Denmark to organize a demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where he burnt the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Later on Saturday, a different pro-Kurdish march was scheduled for the Swedish capital.
In reaction, the Swedish defense minister Pål Jonson’s planned visit to Turkey on January 27 was no longer of any meaning or point because Sweden was still allowing disgusting demonstrations against Turkey, according to Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar.
According to a tweet from Jonson, he and Akar decided to postpone their meeting in Ankara after meeting on Friday in Ramstein, Germany.
Sweden places a high value on its relations with Turkey, and he stated, We look forward to continuing the dialogue on mutual security and military concerns at a later date.
Due to accusations from Ankara that Sweden in particular is soft on Kurdish militants as well as other groups that Turkey views as security risks, the previously nonaligned countries of Sweden and Finland have been prevented from applying to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Swedish government’s attempts to restore relationships with Turkey have been hampered by pro-Kurdish activist demonstrations that have enraged the Turkish government. Rasmus Paludan, an anti-Islam activist, heightened the tense situation on Saturday by holding a Quran-burning demonstration in front of the Turkish Embassy.
Paludan protested while being surrounded by police and made derogatory remarks about immigrants and Islam. Nearby, about 100 people gathered for a calm counterprotest.
Later on Saturday, pro-Kurdish and anti-NATO protesters intended to march through Stockholm’s center.
Swedish authorities have emphasized that, although inciting violence or using hate speech is prohibited, people have a wide range of rights under the Swedish Constitution to freely express their opinions. Demonstrators are required to request a permit from the police for a public gathering. Only in extraordinary cases, such as when there are dangers to the public’s safety, can police deny such permits.
Turkish officials criticized the Swedish government for allowing the Quran-burning rally as well as the protest itself on Twitter. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin described it as a heinous crime against humanity. Omer Celik, a spokesman for the ruling party, accused the Swedish government of shielding hate crimes.
The planned protests by pro-Kurdish groups affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were denounced by Turkey by summoning the Swedish ambassador on Friday. According to Turkey, these protests would violate the joint memorandum signed by Turkey, Sweden, and Finland that prevented a Turkish veto for the Nordic countries’ NATO membership in June. In the memorandum, Sweden and Finland stated that they “affirm” the PKK’s status as a terrorist organization, joining Turkey, the United States, and the European Union in that regard.
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