JEDDAH: Sweden failed on Thursday to convince Turkiye to lift its block on Stockholm’s membership of NATO in talks blighted by last week’s desecration and burning of the Qur’an in the Swedish capital.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was furious with the Swedish government for allowing the “protest” outside the Stockholm central mosque to go ahead. “Those who permitted the crime” were as much to blame as the perpetrator, he said, and NATO membership was out of the question until Qur’an burning ceased.
Turkiye already opposes Sweden’s NATO membership because of its alleged harboring of PKK militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party.
Sweden says it has fulfilled the demands agreed on in negotiations with Turkiye, including the introduction of a bill that makes being a member of a terrorist organization illegal. The government is also looking at whether it could criminalize setting any holy book on fire. Such actions are currently protected by Sweden’s far-reaching laws on freedom of expression.
“We have to ask ourselves whether the current order is good or whether there is reason to reconsider it,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said on Thursday. “We can see that the Qur’an burning last week has generated threats to our internal security.”
Talks on Sweden’s NATO membership will continue on Monday before a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithania. “We are hoping and looking for a positive decision,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.