The protests in Stockholm, including the burning of the Koran, have drawn strong criticism from Turkey

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Reuters

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday that his Swedish counterpart’s planned visit to Ankara had been canceled after Swedish authorities cracked down on protests in Stockholm.

Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, sharply raised tensions with Turkey at a time when northern Europe needs Ankara’s support to join the military alliance.

“We strongly condemn this heinous attack on our holy book… This anti-Islamic act targeting Muslims and insulting our sacred values ​​cannot be tolerated under the guise of freedom of expression.” – said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey.

His comments came after a far-right anti-immigrant politician set fire to a Koran outside the Turkish embassy. The Turkish Ministry called on Sweden to take necessary measures against the criminals and urged all countries to take concrete measures against Islamophobia.

A separate rally was held in the city in support of the Kurds and against Sweden’s intention to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkey protesters also organized a demonstration in front of the embassy. All three incidents had a police clearance.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said Islamophobic incitement was appalling.

“Sweden has a lot of freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean I support the Swedish government or my opinion,” Billstrom said on Twitter.

Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right Danish political party Hard Line, performed the Koran burning ceremony. Paludan, a Swede, has previously held several protests where he burned the Koran.

Paludan could not immediately be reached by email for comment. In the permit he obtained from the police, he said that his march was organized against Islam and that he called it an attempt by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to influence freedom of speech in Sweden.

Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, have condemned the burning of the Koran. “Saudi Arabia encourages the spread of the values ​​of dialogue, tolerance and coexistence and rejects hatred and extremism,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, but 30 member states must approve their application. Turkey, in particular, said Sweden needed to take a tougher stance against what it considers terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it has accused of plotting a coup in 2016.

In a rally to protest Sweden’s NATO candidacy and show support for the Kurds, speakers stood in front of a large red banner reading “We are all PKK,” a reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is banned in Turkey. , Sweden and the United States. among other countries and addressed several hundred pro-Kurdish and leftist supporters.

Thomas Pettersson, a spokesman for the anti-NATO alliance and one of the organizers of the protest, told Reuters: “We will continue our opposition to Sweden joining NATO.”

Police said the situation was peaceful at all three protests.

Earlier on Saturday, Turkey announced that it had canceled the planned visit of the Swedish defense minister to Ankara due to the lack of measures to curb the protests.

“At this time, the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonsson to Turkey on January 27 is meaningless. That’s why we canceled the trip,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.

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