NATO chief condemns Erdogan's position on Sweden

NATO chief condemns Erdogan's position on Sweden
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Stoltenberg has criticized Erdogan who said, upon the burning of a copy of Koran by an extremist in Stockholm, that Sweden could no longer count on Ankara's support for its NATO accession.

The Secretary General of NATO on Monday rebuked the attitude of the Turkish President, who said earlier in the same day that they will block Sweden's NATO membership after a right wing extremist politician burned a copy of the Koran on Saturday in Stockholm.

In an interview on German television Die Welt, NATO's top official Jens Stoltenberg condemned Recep Tayyip Erdogan's position on Sweden, saying:

"Freedom of expression, freedom of opinion is a precious commodity, in Sweden and in all other NATO countries. And that is why these inappropriate acts are not automatically illegal."

Stoltenberg stressed that "the Swedish government has condemned (this act) in very clear terms."

After Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Koran on Saturday in front of the Turkish embassy in Sweden's capital, Turkish President Erdogan reacted strongly on Monday, declaring that Sweden, a candidate for NATO membership, could no longer count on the support of Ankara.

In recent months, Turkish officials have repeatedly accused Stockholm of harboring Kurdish political activists whom they call "terrorists," threatening not to ratify Sweden's membership in case it does not fulfill Turkey's demands.

Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral agreement in June 2022 to secure Turkey's green light for the two Nordic countries' accession to NATO, in return for concessions including a crackdown on political activists allegedly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), ending support provided to Kurdish militia in Northern Syria and lifting of arms embargoes imposed on Turkey upon its occupation of Syrian territories in 2019.

Turkey and Hungary are the remaining two NATO members who have not yet ratified the membership of Sweden and Finland. The Hungarian government earlier announced that the ratification process will be completed in early 2023.