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Sweden warns citizens to avoid protests in Turkey

January 28, 2023

People in Turkey are protesting a Quran burning that occurred in Stockholm last week. The controversy could stall Sweden's NATO bid, which needs Ankara's approval.

Police officers in front of Swedish consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
Sweden's foreign ministry has warned its citizens to avoid large gatherings in TurkeyImage: Hakan Akgun/Demiroren Visual Media/ABACA/picture alliance

Sweden's Foreign Ministry on Saturday warned Swedish citizens in Turkey to avoid large gatherings.

The warning comes as people in Turkey protest against the burning of the Quran by a far-right politician in Stockholm.

"Swedes in Turkey are asked to stay updated on the development of events and to avoid large gatherings and demonstrations," the Foreign Ministry said.

"Continued demonstrations can be expected outside the embassy in Ankara and the consulate-general in Istanbul in the coming days."

Similar advisories were issued by the Foreign Ministries of Denmark and Norway, Scandinavian media reported.

Why are people in Turkey protesting?

Last week, Turkey suspended talks on Finland and Sweden's NATO bid over a far-right protest in Stockholm. The two countries need unanimous support from NATO members, including Turkey, in order to enter the military alliance.

Turkey's delicate balancing act between Ukraine, Russia

Far-right Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan set a copy of the Quran on fire in Sweden's capital. He said that he would burn copies of the Islamic holy book every week until Sweden is able to join NATO.

Turkey canceled a visit by Swedish Foreign Minister Pal Jonson over Stockholm's decision to allow the far-right protest.

Paludan's actions have led to demonstrations in a number of Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called Paludan's protest "deeply disrespectful," while defending the right to freedom of speech.

Sweden's push to join NATO halted

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara could no longer support Sweden's accession to NATO due to the protest in Stockholm.

"If you love members of terrorist organizations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, then we advise you to seek their support for your countries' security," Erdogan said.

Erdogan, who heads the conservative Justice and Development Party, is facing fiercely contested elections in May.

On Tuesday, Finland hinted that it could apply for membership in the military alliance separately from Sweden if Stockholm's bid is stalled over the controversy.

"We still have to evaluate the situation if it turns out that Sweden's application is stalling for a long time to come,'' Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.

sdi/dj (Reuters, dpa)