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Turkey cancels ministers' meeting condemning Sweden protests

Turkey demands extradition of terrorists from Sweden to ratify its NATO application

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan | Reuters

Turkey on Saturday cancelled a planned visit by Sweden's defence minister in response to the Nordic country's issuing of permits for anti-Turkish protests.

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday the scheduled January 27 visit by his Swedish counterpart Pal Johnson would not take place.

He said the meeting no longer held any importance or point because Sweden continued to allow disgusting demonstrations against Turkey. "At this point, the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson to Turkey on January 27 has become completely meaningless. This is why we cancelled the visit," Akar was quoted saying by TASS agency.

Sweden is bracing for several demonstrations this weekend. A far-right activist from Denmark has received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where he intends to burn the Quran, Islam's holy book.

Meanwhile, both pro-Turkish and pro-Kurdish groups are planning demonstrations in the Swedish capital. Turkish officials took to Twitter on Saturday to condemn anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan's plans to burn the Quran.

Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for Turkey's president, called it a hateful crime against humanity. Ruling party spokesman Omer Celik accused Swedish authorities of protecting hate crimes.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists that attacking the Quran cannot be considered freedom of expression and said he hoped Swedish authorities would cancel the permit for the protest.

It is the latest backlash from Turkey, a NATO member who has been holding off on approving Sweden's application to join the military alliance until the Swedish government cracks down on groups that Ankara regards as security threats.

Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador on Friday to condemn the planned protests, saying protests by pro-Kurdish groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, would be a violation of the joint memorandum signed between Turkey, Sweden and Finland that prevented a Turkish veto for the Nordic countries' NATO accession in June.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terror group and in the memorandum, Sweden and Finland said they confirm that designation as well.

Earlier in January, an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hung from a lamppost during a protest by Kurds. Turkey denounced a decision by a Swedish prosecutor not to investigate and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the protest an act of sabotage against Sweden's bid to join NATO.

Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador earlier this week and cancelled a visit by the speaker of the Swedish parliament in reaction to the incident.

All NATO members need to ratify in their parliaments Sweden and Finland's accession requests, made after Russia's war on Ukraine prompted the Nordic countries to drop their longstanding policies of military non-alignment.

While Turkey says it has no objection to NATO's growth, it won't ratify until its demands, which include extraditions of alleged terror suspects, are met. Earlier, Erdogan said the Turkish parliament would not ratify Finland and Sweden's NATO membership until extradition of about 130 terrorists are fulfilled.


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