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Turkey Calls Off Swedish Defense Minister’s Visit Ahead of Planned Protest

Turkey has canceled a scheduled visit by Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson
Turkey has canceled a scheduled visit by Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson due to anger over a protest set to take place in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm Credit: Maurice Flesier/ Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

On Saturday, Turkey announced that it had canceled an upcoming visit by the Swedish defense minister due to a demonstration set to take place in front of the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital.

The purpose of the visit was for Pål Jonson, Sweden’s defense minister, to open a dialogue regarding Turkey’s objections to Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

However, Turkish officials were angered by the decision of Swedish authorities to allow a protest to take place in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

Turkey cancels Swedish defense minister visit

“At this point, Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson’s visit to Turkey on January 27 has lost its significance and meaning, so we canceled the visit,” said the Turkish defense minister,  Hulusi Akar.

Turkish officials were frustrated by Sweden’s decision to allow Danish-Swedish politician, Rasmus Paludan, to protest in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Paludan has said that he plans to “burn the Koran,” the Islamic holy book, during his protest on Saturday.

On Friday, Sweden’s ambassador was summoned by Turkish officials to “condemn this provocative action which is clearly a hate crime—in strongest terms.”

This was the second time in a single week that Staffan Herrström, the Swedish ambassador to Turkey, was summoned to answer for events in Sweden deemed to be offensive by Turkish authorities.

Herrström was called on to address a video posted by a Kurdish group in Stockholm that depicted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan being hanged from a rope.

Turkey has slammed Sweden and other European countries for not extraditing individuals deemed by Turkey to be “terrorists,” associated either with Kurdish groups or the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt.

NATO debacle

Sweden and neighboring Finland both submitted applications to join NATO on May 18, 2022. The two northern European nations, which are situated close to Russia—with Finland sharing a border—felt compelled to join the military alliance to assuage security concerns stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

However, Turkey, which has been a NATO member since 1952, immediately moved to oppose Sweden and Finland’s ascension into the alliance. Ankara lifted this veto in June but has thus far refused to approve the ascension of either Sweden or Finland.

Erdogan told members of the NATO alliance in November that Turkey would not approve ascension for either state until Sweden and Finland take “steps” to tackle terrorists associated with Kurdish groups and the 2016 attempted coup.

So far, the two states have refused Turkish demands to extradite individuals considered criminal by Turkish authorities. In December, Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s extradition request for Turkish journalist Bülent Keneş, ruling that he risked persecution for his political views in Turkey.

As a result, Turkey has refused to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership and has indicated that a vote on the matter will now likely occur as late as sometime after the Turkish presidential election, scheduled for May of this year.

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