Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said that Sweden should not expect support from Ankara on its NATO bid in response to anti-Islam protests that took place in Sweden over the weekend.
Demonstrators burned Qurans in front of the Turkish embassy on Saturday, and Erdogan said Stockholm should not have allowed the protests to take place at that location.
“It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,” Erdogan said.
Pro-Kurdish demonstrations also took place in Sweden, which Erdogan said were in support of the PKK, a group Turkey and the EU consider a terrorist organization. “So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and then expect our support for getting into NATO. That’s not happening,” he said.
Turkey has delayed both Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids mainly over their alleged support for the PKK. Erdogan has been demanding Sweden approve more extraditions to Turkey and has been critical of Stockholm’s cooperation, but his comments Monday were his strongest yet.
Erdogan’s comments come as he is preparing to run for reelection. The election was originally scheduled to take place in June, but it might be rescheduled for May. A spokesman for Erdogan recently said they don’t want to bring the NATO issue to Turkey’s parliament ahead of the elections.
While Erdogan made no mention of Finland on Monday, the two Nordic nations have said that their NATO bids are linked and that they wouldn’t join the alliance without each other. Turkey and Hungary are the only two NATO nations that haven’t approved Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, although the Hungarian parliament is expected to hold a vote on the issue soon.
If Sweden and Finland join NATO, it will raise tensions with Moscow in the region as Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia. The Russian military is planning to boost its presence in western Russia and along the border if Finland ends up joining the alliance.