ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey on Saturday cancelled a planned visit by Sweden’s defense minister in response to the Nordic country’s permits for anti-Turkish protests.
It is the latest backlash from Turkey, a NATO member which has been holding off on approving Sweden’s application to join the military alliance until the Swedish government cracks down on groups that Ankara regards as security threats.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the scheduled Jan. 27 visit by his Swedish counterpart Pål 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.
Sweden is bracing for several demonstrations this weekend. 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, Islam’s holy book. Meanwhile, both pro-Turkish and pro-Kurdish groups are planning demonstrations in the Swedish capital.
Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador Friday to condemn the protests, saying protests by pro-Kurdish groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, would be a violation of the joint memorandum signed between Turkey, Sweden and Finland that prevented a Turkish veto for the Nordic countries’ NATO accession in June. Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terror group and in the memorandum, Sweden and Finland said they “confirm” that designation as well.
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Earlier in January, an effigy of the Turkish president was hung from a lamppost 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 bid to join NATO. Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador earlier this week and canceled a visit by the speaker of the Swedish parliament in reaction to the incident.
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