Ankara has canceled the planned visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson, his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar announced in a statement on Saturday, following two protests held outside of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Danish-Swedish political activist Rasmus Paludan, who leads the Stram Kurs party, on the morning of Saturday, January 21st, staged a protest outside of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Quran, Islam’s holy book, France 24 reports.
A second protest was held outside of the embassy by Kurds later the same day. The two protests have further inflamed the already tense diplomatic relations between Sweden and Turkey.
“At this point, Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson’s visit to Turkey on January 27 has lost its significance and meaning, so we canceled the visit,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told members of the press on Saturday.
Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson, in a tweet posted Saturday, said that the ministers had “decided to postpone the planned meeting in Ankara” at the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany.
On Friday, January 20th, Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador Staffan Herrström in an attempt to prevent the Stockholm police from granting permission for the Koran burning, which Turkey considers a hate crime, marking the second time in just over a week that the ambassador was summoned by the Turkish government.
The ambassador was summoned on January 12th after a Kurdish demonstration saw an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hung upside down on a lamppost outside the city hall in Stockholm.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström called the act “abhorrent,” while Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also condemned the protest, calling it an act of “sabotage” against Sweden’s bid to join the NATO alliance.
Ankara’s cancelation of the meeting between defense ministers comes as Sweden is looking to open a dialogue regarding Turkey’s objections to its bid to join the NATO military alliance.
At the end of 2022, Turkey gave the go-ahead to begin the accession process for Sweden and Finland in exchange for the two countries addressing requests to extradite those with suspected ties to PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and others Turkey deems to be ‘terrorists.’ Days ago, Erdoğan increased his demands, saying the two Nordic countries must extradite up to 130 ‘terrorists’ in order for Ankara to ratify their NATO membership applications.
The Biden administration late last week urged Turkey to green light the two Nordic countries. State Department spokesman Ned Price urged NATO’s “remaining allies”—meaning Turkey—to “quickly ratify their accession.”