Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday said that Ankara would not accept Sweden’s application for NATO membership “as long as they allow burning of the Quran,” reported news agency Reuters. “Sweden should not bother to try at this point. We will not say ‘yes’ to their NATO application as long as they allow burning of the Koran,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said that Turkey looks positively on Finland’s application for NATO membership but does not support Sweden’s bid. “Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not positive on Sweden,” Erdogan said of their NATO applications in a speech to his AK Party deputies in parliament.
After Russia’s invasion in Ukraine last year, Finland and Sweden had applied to join the trans-Atlantic defence alliance but faced unexpected objections from Turkey and have since sought to win its support.
Ankara’s backlash against Stockholm’s NATO bid comes after the Nordic country gave permission for protests which involved burning of Muslim holy book of Quran by a far-right politician and the issue of extradition of people affiliated with anti-Turkey groups. The Swedish police allowed a protest in which a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm in January.
Sweden and Finland submitted their formal requests to join NATO in May 2022, which were initially opposed by Turkey, an alliance member, citing their support for anti-Ankara Kurdish organisations and political dissidents. A month later, Turkey, Sweden and Finland reached a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ahead of the NATO summit held in Madrid.
As per the MoU, Ankara agreed to lift its veto on the NATO bids by Finland and Sweden which in return pledged to support Ankara’s fight against terrorism and address its “pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”.
The Turkish parliament has not ratified the Nordic countries’ NATO bids so far, citing that they have yet to meet Ankara’s requests.