Swedish Foreign Ministry reacts to Turkey’s statements about Islamophobia in Europe

Swedish Foreign Ministry: The government does not support Islamophobia, but there is freedom of expression

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström, in response to Ankara’s statement that the action with the burning of the Koran in Stockholm shows the level of Islamophobia in Europe, said that such provocations are terrible, but in Sweden there is freedom of expression, and the kingdom’s government itself does not support Islamophobic beliefs.

Nordic News reported Friday that Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right party Tough Course, received permission to hold a Quran-burning rally outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Paludan held the action on Saturday at 4 p.m. Moscow time. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the Quran burning in Stockholm shows the level of Islamophobia, racism and discrimination in Europe.

“Islamophobic provocations are terrible. There is far-reaching freedom of expression in Sweden, but this does not mean that the Swedish government or myself support the beliefs expressed,” the Swedish foreign minister wrote on his Twitter page.

On Saturday, Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced that Swedish Defense Minister Paul Joensson’s visit to the country on January 27 was canceled because “it no longer makes sense. The head of the Swedish Defense Ministry had planned to discuss in Ankara Stockholm’s application for NATO membership, which Turkey had not yet ratified.

Earlier, a rally was held in Stockholm by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), banned in Turkey, at which they made a number of offensive remarks and gestures against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. After the events, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Shentop cancelled a planned visit to Ankara by his Swedish counterpart. The Turkish president’s lawyer filed a complaint with Ankara’s main prosecutor’s office in connection with the action and a criminal case was opened. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said that the PKK action risked complicating Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

Finland and Sweden, against the backdrop of the events in Ukraine, submitted their applications for NATO membership to the NATO Secretary General on May 18. Ankara initially blocked the start of consideration of these applications, but on June 29, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral security memorandum that addresses all of Ankara’s concerns. Turkey withdrew its objections to these two countries joining NATO. As of Oct. 6, 28 out of 30 countries had already decided positively to admit the Nordic countries to NATO, with the exception of Turkey and Hungary.

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