| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Sweden’s NATO bid in jeopardy after allowing Quran burning as Ankara seethes

Following the approval granted by Swedish police for the burning of the Quran outside Stockholm’s main mosque during a protest, there has been widespread anger in the Islamic world. Turkey’s foreign minister criticized Sweden, stating that this decision could potentially create further complications for Ankara’s already-delayed approval of Sweden’s application to join NATO.
“I condemn the vile protest in Sweden against our holy book on the first day of the blessed Eid al-Adha,” said Hakan Fidan, the Turkish foreign minister, adding that it was “unacceptable to allow anti-Islam protests in the name of freedom of expression”.

Turkey holds the cards
Turkey holds Sweden’s fortunes in its hands regarding membership to the security alliance. Stockholm has been seeking a NATO spot since last year. So far, not much progress has been made on the issue as Ankara has refused to ratify Sweden’s application.

The two countries have not been on cordial terms for long. In January, Turkey opened up an inquiry after an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was burnt by Kurdish elements.
Erdogan continues to blast Sweden for providing a safe haven to Kurdish ‘terrorists’. The Turkish leader is also cross with the Nordic countries for imposing an arms embargo on Ankara after Turkey’s intervention in the Syrian conflict in 2019.

“Until the promises made to our country are kept, we will maintain our principled position. We are closely following whether the promises made by Sweden and Finland are kept or not, and of course, the final decision will be up to our great parliament,” Erdogan had said in the country’s parliament last year.

Finland, finally, got the approval and joined NATO in April this year.

Notably, Sweden sped up its process to join the nuclear-armed alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, last year. It submitted the official application in May but to become a member, all 30 NATO allies need to sign the ratification document. Every country has signed the document, bar Turkey and Hungary.

What happened in Sweden?
After police had refused to authorise Quran burning in the capital city, saying the protests had made Sweden a “high priority target” for attacks, the protesters went to the court.

The appeals court ruled that the police were wrong to ban the protest, saying that “the order and security problems” referenced by the police did not have “a sufficiently clear connection to the planned event or its immediate vicinity.”

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