Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has called on Sweden and Finland to exercise the power entrusted to them by the people and take the necessary steps to further their NATO membership bids and to also put an end to controversial protests, the private DHA news agency reported.
The two countries dropped decades of military non-alignment last year when they applied to join the Western defense alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ankara says any progress depends on steps from Sweden and Finland to extradite people it accuses of terrorism or of having played a part in a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“We expect Sweden and Finland to exercise the [power and authority given to them by the people], fulfill their promises and put an end to abhorrent and disgraceful acts. As long as they do this, we won’t have any problems with them,” said Akar.
The minister was seeking the extradition of political dissidents considered “terrorists” by Turkey from these two countries in line with an agreement in Madrid in June.
He was also demanding an end to anti-Erdoğan and anti-Muslim protests in Sweden, which have further strained relations between the two countries.
An incident staged by a far-right politician in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday – allowed by the police — has struck yet another blow to Swedish-Turkish relations.
Rasmus Paludan, a Swedish-Danish activist who has already been convicted for racist abuse, burned a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm after a speech of almost an hour denouncing Islam.
Police based their decision to allow the gathering to proceed on the basis of Sweden’s liberal constitution, which protects the right to demonstrate.
Ankara summoned Sweden’s ambassador to register its outrage, then cancelled a visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson that had been scheduled for next Friday in Ankara — a rare high-level meeting.
Earlier this month, Ankara called in Sweden’s ambassador after pro-Kurdish activists hung an effigy of Erdoğan from its feet, explicitly comparing him to Benito Mussolini.
Italy’s fascist dictator was left hanging upside down after his execution in the closing days of World War II.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson denounced it as an attempt to sabotage the country’s NATO membership bid — but that sparked a backlash from some inside Sweden defending the right to freedom of expression.