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Erdogan in Sweden: Don’t expect Turkish backing for NATO bid after Stockholm protest

ANKARA, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Sweden is unlikely to expect Turkey to back 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 said on Monday.

Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have heightened tensions with Turkey, which Sweden needs to enter the military alliance .

“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer count on our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said in a speech after a Cabinet meeting.

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

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

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

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine, but all 30 member states must approve their application. 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 accuses of attempting a coup in Turkey. in 2016.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Finland and Sweden were ready to join the alliance, but declined to say whether Washington believed Erdogan’s comments meant a permanent shutdown of the alliance. door.

“At the end of the day, it’s a decision and a consensus that Finland and Sweden will have to reach with Turkey,” Price said.

Price told reporters that burning sacred books for many is a deeply disrespectful act, adding that the United States is aware that those who may be behind what happened in Sweden are intentionally trying to weaken the across the Atlantic and among Washington’s European allies. .

“We have a saying in this country – something can be legal but horrible. I think in this case what we’ve seen in the context of Sweden falls into that category,” Price said.

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

Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait denounced the event. Turkey had already summoned the Swedish ambassador and canceled a planned visit by the Swedish defense minister to Ankara.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Huseyin Hayatsever; Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard in Stockholm and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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