Burkina: new demonstrations in Ouagadougou against French presence
ISTANBUL: Turkey on Saturday canceled a planned visit by Sweden’s defense minister, to condemn the official anti-Turkey demonstrations in Stockholm, a new incident in NATO negotiations between the two countries.
“The visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson to Turkey on January 27 has lost its significance and meaning, so we have canceled it,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
The aim of the visit is to try to get rid of Ankara’s objections to Sweden’s entry into NATO.
The authorization granted to Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan to demonstrate on Saturday in front of the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital infuriated Ankara.
Under heavy police protection and protected by metal barriers, the anti-Islam and anti-immigration activist, as he had announced, burned copies of the Koran, an AFP journalist said.
“If you don’t think there should be freedom of expression, you should live somewhere else,” said the man who regularly burns Korans, in a nearly hour-long denunciation.
Swedish police estimated Friday that the Constitution and freedom of demonstration and expression in Sweden do not justify banning these demonstrations in the name of public order.
On Saturday, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin condemned the planned protests, calling them a “manifestation of hate crimes”.
“Allowing this act despite all our warnings is to encourage hate crimes and Islamophobia,” he tweeted. “The attack on sacred values is not freedom but modern barbarism,” he added.
In protest, several dozen people gathered at the end of the day on Saturday in front of the Swedish consulate in Istanbul, where they burned the Swedish flag and asked Ankara to cut all diplomatic ties with Stockholm, said an AFP journalist. Others demonstrated near the Swedish Embassy in Ankara.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, in a statement from its Foreign Ministry “condemns and denounces that Swedish authorities allowed an extremist to burn a copy of the Koran in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm”.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also condemned the move.
Sweden’s chief diplomat condemned the “horrific Islamophobic provocation” and emphasized that the authorization of a demonstration does not mean it is endorsed by the executive.
“Islamophobic provocations are appalling. Sweden has very wide freedom of expression, but that doesn’t mean that the Swedish government, or myself, supports the views expressed,” Tobias Billström said on Twitter.
On Friday, Turkey had summoned the Swedish ambassador to Ankara to “condemn the provocative act which clearly constitutes a hate crime – in the strongest terms”, according to a diplomatic source.
This is the second time in as many days that Sweden’s representative in Ankara has been summoned by the Foreign Ministry, following the release last week of a video showing a hanging mannequin identified as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The staging was carried out by a group close to the Rojava Committee, supporters of Syrian Kurds.
The pro-Kurdish demonstrations, in which the committee is taking part, also started on Saturday afternoon in a square in central Stockholm, against Sweden’s membership of NATO and Turkish President Erdogan.
Several hundred people gathered, many bearing the flags of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and the European Union.
Turkey has blocked Sweden’s — and Finland’s — entry into NATO since May, accusing them of harboring Kurdish militants and sympathizers of what it calls “terrorists”, particularly the PKK and its allies in northern Syria and Iraq.
For Ankara, any possible progress hinges on Sweden’s extradition of those accused by Turkey of terrorism or taking part in the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.