The speaker of the Turkish parliament, Numan Kurtulmus, has issued a warning to Sweden, stating that their membership in NATO will remain an unfulfilled dream if they continue with provocations and are reluctant to hand over terrorist suspects to Turkey. Kurtulmus strongly condemned the burning of the Koran by activists in Stockholm last week, describing it as an extraordinarily provocative and anti-Islamic action that cannot be defended in any way. He criticized Sweden for claiming to be a democratic country that respects different beliefs and ideas, stating that this has proven to be untrue.
Kurtulmus emphasized that Ankara’s approval of Finland’s application to join NATO does not necessarily mean that the same will happen with Sweden. He mentioned that both Stockholm and Helsinki recently broke their decades-long policy of neutrality by applying to join the US-led military alliance, citing concerns over the conflict in Ukraine. However, while Finland became the 31st NATO member in April, Turkey remains opposed to Sweden joining the bloc.
One of the main issues that Turkey has accused Sweden of is a reluctance to hand over “terrorists” from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other associated groups, which have been outlawed by Turkish authorities. Kurtulmus stated that Sweden cannot engage in provocative actions while simultaneously seeking approval to join NATO. He expressed Turkey’s expectation for Sweden to keep its promises and prevent such provocative acts, as well as extradite the ringleaders of anti-Turkey terrorist organizations. Kurtulmus emphasized that Turkey, as a country that sticks to its word, delivers on its promises and expects others to do the same.
Despite his criticism, Kurtulmus clarified that Turkey is not categorically opposed to Sweden becoming a NATO member. However, he stressed that Sweden needs to do its own homework, by preventing provocative acts and extraditing the ringleaders of terrorist organizations, in order for NATO membership to be a possibility.
The burning of the Koran in Stockholm has caused significant controversy and condemnation from Turkey and other Muslim countries. In Iraq, protesters even overran the Swedish embassy in response to the incident. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg commented on the issue, stating that while the act of defacing Islam’s holy book is offensive and objectionable, it is not necessarily illegal.
This controversy comes ahead of this year’s NATO summit, which is scheduled to take place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on July 11 and 12. The issue of Sweden’s membership in NATO is expected to be a topic of discussion during the summit.