Sweden urges 'functioning dialogue' with Turkey after series of fails
Even with the current events aside, Sweden's anxiety comes amid hints from Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto of the possibility of Finland proceeding with its NATO application alone.
Sweden is scrambling to mend the pieces with Turkey amid its attempt to get into NATO following the series of events, such as Swedish MP Jimmie Akersson calling Erdogan an 'Islamist dictator', and the burning of the Quran in Stockholm, which are not only weakening Sweden's case but is actually making it impossible.
At a press conference, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson stressed the "seriousness" of the matter, saying, "This is real. It is the worst thing we have experienced since World War II... No national security issue is more important than that we and Finland quickly become members of NATO."
Even with the current events aside, Sweden's anxiety comes amid hints from Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto of the possibility of Finland proceeding with its NATO application without Sweden. When asked whether Finland should move as quickly as Sweden in seeking clearance for the proposal, Haavisto told Finnish radio YLE that while simultaneous NATO accession would be ideal "from the standpoint of both countries' security," it remained that "we have to be ready to re-evaluate the situation."
In light of that, Kristersson expressed that he "understood Finland’s frustration" and said it cannot be banned from NATO if Sweden were to be "permanently excluded." However, the Swedish PM urged for more "functioning dialog" with Turkey, saying "I think that this incredibly heated atmosphere, in Sweden and worldwide, is bad for Sweden's security."
Another day, another fail
Sweden's recent and continuous failures first began with a doll representing Erdogan being hanged in Stockholm during a pro-Kurdish protest, which the Swedish Foreign Ministry condemned after calling the protest "provocative".
The second came when MP Akersson labeled the Turkish president as an 'Islamist dictator'. He told Swedish media: "You can't go too far. Because it is ultimately an anti-democratic system we are dealing with," as he added that Sweden should not give in to Turkey's demands too much, while rejecting Erdogan as a popularly elected leader. "I am party leader of the anti-Islamist Sweden Democrats and have strong views on an Islamist dictator like Erdogan," he stated.
The third and latest comes after Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Quran in Stockholm, to which Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström responded by saying the "Islamophobic provocations are appalling."
He clarified that his country had 'freedom of expression', "but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed."
Islamophobic provocations are appalling. Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed.— Tobias Billström (@TobiasBillstrom) January 21, 2023
Kristersson denounced the act by Paludan, offering "sympathy" to all Muslims. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated his expectations just a day before that the Swedish authorities would prevent the protest from taking place but to no avail.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani strongly condemned the continuous violation of the sanctity of the Quran in European countries. "Some European states, under the pretext of free speech and freedom of expression, are allowing extremist groups to spread hatred and discord," Kanaani said. He also said that the Europeans' claims of protecting human rights are allowing Islamophobia to embed itself in European societies.
"The continued violation of the sanctity of the holy book, which is followed by one and a half billion Muslims, is a true testament to spreading hatred and violence," the foreign ministry spokesperson said. "Public opinion in the Islamic World expects the Swedish government to not be lenient toward anyone showing hostility toward Islam."
Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act. I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today.— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) January 21, 2023
Hezbollah also strongly condemned in a statement the burning of the Holy Quran in Sweden, deeming the action a criminal act and a "heinous offense that we can’t keep silent over."
"This move comes as part of an offensive series that is aimed against Islam and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), as well as against all Muslim references, figures, and sanctities," Hezbollah's Media Relations Office considered.
Finland and Sweden submitted their NATO bids in May of 2022. Turkey is one of the two NATO member states to oppose Sweden and Finland's membership ambitions, accusing the Nordic countries of sponsoring and hosting members of Kurdish organizations Turkey has labeled as terrorist.