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Protests in Stockholm, including the burning of the Koran, draw strong condemnation from Turkey

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STOCKHOLM (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s bids to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, heightened tensions with Turkey at a time when the Nordic country needs of Ankara’s support for joining the alliance army.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly attack on our holy book… Allowing this anti-Islamic act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable,” he said. declared the Turkish Foreign Ministry. She said.

His statement was released after an anti-immigrant politician from the far-right fringe burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy. The Turkish ministry has urged Sweden to take necessary action against the perpetrators and called on all countries to take concrete action against Islamophobia.

A separate protest was held in the city in support of the Kurds and against Sweden’s offer to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkish protesters also held a rally in front of the embassy. All three events had police permits.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Islamophobic provocations were appalling.

“Sweden enjoys a wide freedom of expression, but that doesn’t imply that the Swedish government, or myself, support the views expressed,” Billstrom said on Twitter.

The burning of the Koran was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right Hard Line political party. Paludan, who is also a Swedish citizen, has held a series of rallies in the past where he burned the Koran.

Paludan was not immediately reachable via email for comment. In the permit he obtained from the police, he said his protest was against Islam and what he called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to influence freedom of expression in Sweden.

Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait have denounced the burning of the Koran. “Saudi Arabia calls for the dissemination of the values ​​of dialogue, tolerance and coexistence and rejects hatred and extremism,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but all 30 member states must approve their offers. Turkey said Sweden, in particular, must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

At the rally to protest Sweden’s NATO bid and show support for the Kurds, speakers stopped in front of a large red banner reading “We are all PKK,” referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which is outlawed in Turkey, Sweden and the United States among other countries, and addressed several hundred pro-Kurdish and leftist supporters.

“We will continue our opposition to Sweden’s candidacy for NATO,” Thomas Pettersson, a spokesman for Alliance Against NATO and one of the organizers of the rally, told RockedBuzz via Reuters.

Police said the situation was calm during all three demonstrations.

In Istanbul, people in a group of around 200 protesters set fire to a Swedish flag in front of the Swedish consulate in response to the burning of the Koran.

VISIT OF THE SWEDISH MINISTER CANCELED

On Saturday, Turkey said it had canceled a planned visit to Ankara by Sweden’s defense minister due to a lack of measures to curb the protests.

Jonson separately said that he and Akar had met on Friday during a gathering of Western Allies in Germany and agreed to postpone the scheduled meeting.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he had discussed with Erdogan the lack of measures to limit protests in Sweden against Turkey and conveyed Ankara’s reaction to Jonson on the sidelines of a meeting of the Defense Contact Group of the ‘Ukraine.

“It is unacceptable not to make a move or not to react to these (protests). Necessary things had to be done, measures had to be taken,” Akar said, according to a Turkish defense ministry statement.

The Turkish foreign ministry had already summoned the Swedish ambassador on Friday for planned protests.

Finland and Sweden signed a tripartite deal with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO membership. Sweden says it has fulfilled its end of the memorandum, but Turkey is demanding more, including the extradition of 130 people it believes are terrorists.

(Reporting by Omer Berberoglu, Ezgi Erkoyun and Bulent Usta in Istanbul and Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson in StockholmAdditional reporting by Moaz Abd-Alaziz in CairoWriting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Niklas PollardEditing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry)

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