Turkey cancels visit by Swedish defence minister

Sweden braced for anti-Turkey protests as talks over Stockholm's accession to the defence bloc stalls

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has placed conditions on agreeing to Sweden joining the Nato defence alliance. AFP
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Turkey on Saturday cancelled a visit by Sweden’s defence minister, in response to the Nordic country permitting anti-Turkish protests.

It is the latest backlash from Turkey, a Nato member, which has been withholding its approval of Sweden’s application to join the military alliance.

Sweden is bracing for several demonstrations this weekend.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the scheduled January 27 visit by his Swedish counterpart Pal Jonson would not take place. He said the visit no longer held “any importance or point” because Sweden continued to allow “disgusting” demonstrations against Turkey.

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.

Meanwhile, both pro-Turkish and pro-Kurdish groups are planning demonstrations in the Swedish capital.

Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador on Friday to condemn the protests, saying protests by pro-Kurdish groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, would be a breach of the joint memorandum signed between Turkey, Sweden and Finland, aimed at preventing a Turkish veto for the Nordic countries’ Nato accession in June.

Turkey, the US and the EU consider the PKK a terrorist group and in the memorandum, Sweden and Finland said they “confirm” that designation as well.

Earlier in January, an effigy of the Turkish president was hung from a lamp post 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 application to join Nato.

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

Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military non-alignment last year and decided to apply to join Nato, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The move requires the unanimous approval of the alliance’s 30 members. But Ankara says it will not give its consent until the Swedish government clamps down on groups the Turkish government regards as security threats.

Updated: January 21, 2023, 12:39 PM