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Turkey dissatisfied with Swedish reaction to Erdogan effigy

January 13, 2023

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into the incident, which occurred during a Kurdish demo in Stockholm. Sweden said the act was an attempt to sabotage its bid to join NATO.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference in Ankara
Cavusoglu urged Sweden to keep its promises as the Nordic country aims to join NATOImage: Murat Gok /AA/picture alliance

Turkey on Friday lashed out at Sweden after an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hung upside down from a lamppost in Stockholm during a pro-Kurdish demonstration.

Turkey angered by 'hate crime' in Stockholm 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sweden "cannot escape its responsibilities" by only condemning the act, which occurred on Wednesday. During a press conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Antonio Tajani, Cavusoglu said the demonstration was "racist" and a "hate crime." 

"This action took place in the center of the city, right in front of the municipality, in front of everyone," he said. "Sweden has a responsibility here." 

He said the Kurdish PKK organization was "laying mines on the path of Sweden's NATO membership." The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by not only Turkey but also the US and EU.    

Turkey, a NATO member, has called on Sweden to crack down on Kurdish militants as it seeks to join the 30-country defense alliance. Under NATO rules, all members of the organization must agree unanimously to allow an aspiring nation to join.

Neutral throughout the Cold War, both Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But Turkey objects to the Nordic countries' history of welcoming asylum seekers, many of them Kurds, who Ankara considers terrorists.

"Sweden and Finland made a commitment concerning what they can do and put their signature on it," Cavusoglu said. Sweden, along with fellow NATO aspirant Finland, signed an agreement with Turkey to placate Ankara's security demands.  

Cavusoglu said Turkish, Swedish and Finnish representatives will convene for a third meeting in Brussels. 

Turkish state media reported that Turkish prosecutors are probing the incident in Stockholm. The footage of the effigy was posted online by the so-called Solidarity Committee for Rojava, a reference to Kurdish areas of northern Syria. 

The Kurdish group posted pictures of the effigy next to photos of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's 1945 execution. "History shows how dictators end up," the Rojava Committee tweeted, comparing Erdogan to Mussolini.

Turkey holds key to NATO membership for Sweden, Finland

Effigy incident 'extremely serious' and 'dangerous for Swedish security'

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson condemned the effigy incident on Friday, also saying he thought it was designed to derail his country's NATO bid.

"People tried to show their views on the Swedish NATO accession through a disgusting way of portraying President Erdogan in almost something looking like an execution," Kristersson told reporters after a meeting with visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. 

"I would say this is sabotage against the Swedish NATO application," he said. "It is dangerous for Swedish security to act in this way."

Kristersson also said it was "extremely serious" to carry out a "mock execution of a foreign democratically elected leader" in a nation that has witnessed similar types of political violence. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was stabbed to death in 2003, while Social Democrat Prime Minister Olaf Palme was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.        

Turkey earlier this week summoned the Swedish ambassador over the Stockholm protest. The speaker of Turkey's parliament, Mustafa Sentop, also called off a meeting with Swedish parliament speaker Andreas Norlen set for next Tuesday. 

Norlen told the Swedish news agency TT that it was "regrettable that the visit has been canceled."

Kurdish militants are a sensitive issue for Turkey, as the PKK has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, with thousands of people having died during the conflict. Some Kurds believe an independent Kurdish nation should span the area around the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Turkey has frequently launched cross-border attacks in Iraq and Syria, targeting Kurdish militants. 

wd/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)