Erdogan: Sweden cannot join NATO if it allows Koran burning

Turkey will not support Sweden’s admission to NATO as long as it allows protests with the burning of Islamic scriptures, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday.

“Sweden, don’t even worry! As long as you allow my holy book, the Koran, to be burned and torn, and you do it together with your security forces, we will not say yes to your admission to NATO,” the president said in an address to lawmakers from the ruling party.

Swedish government officials have distanced themselves from a protest held by right-wing extremists outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm in January, during which a copy of the Koran was burned, but have indicated that such actions are protected by freedom of speech.

On Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristerson called activists holding such demonstrations “useful idiots” from abroad who are trying to harm Sweden’s path to NATO.

“We have seen how foreign actors, even state actors, have used these demonstrations to inflame the situation in a way that directly harms Sweden’s security,” the prime minister told reporters in Stockholm, without naming specific countries.

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlit Çavuşoğlu also said that Ankara has fewer problems with Finland than with Sweden.

If NATO decides to deal with the admission processes of the two Nordic countries separately, “[Turcija] then, of course, Finland’s participation will be reviewed [ratificēšanu] separately and more favorably,” Çavuşoğlu admitted at a joint press conference with his Estonian counterpart in Tallinn.

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