Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, sharply heightened tensions with Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the attack, calling it “completely unacceptable”. It urged Sweden to take necessary actions and invited all countries to take concrete steps against Islamophobia.
A separate protest took place in the city supporting Kurds and against Sweden’s bid to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkish demonstrators also held a rally outside the embassy. All three events had police permits.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said that Islamophobic provocations were appalling. He stated that Sweden’s freedom of expression does not imply that the Government or himself support the opinions expressed.
The Koran-burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait denounced the Koran-burning.
At the demonstration to protest Sweden’s NATO bid and to show support for Kurds, speakers addressed several hundred pro-Kurdish and left-wing supporters. Police said the situation was calm at all three demonstrations.
In Istanbul, people in a group of around 200 protesters set fire to a Swedish flag in front of the Swedish consulate. Earlier on Saturday, Turkey said that due to lack of measures to restrict protests, it had cancelled a planned visit to Ankara by the Swedish defence minister.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry had summoned Sweden’s ambassador on Friday over the planned protests. Finland and Sweden signed a three-way agreement with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their membership of NATO. Sweden says it has fulfilled its part of the memorandum but Turkey is demanding more, including the extradition of 130 people it deems to be terrorists.