Two weeks before the NATO summit in Vilnius, it is still unclear whether Turkey will give up its blockade on Sweden joining the alliance before the meeting. In a conversation with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again made it clear that Stockholm could not hope for his country to say yes to Sweden joining NATO any time soon. While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is pinning his hopes on a high-level meeting in the coming week, a Koran set on fire in Stockholm led to fresh upsets in Ankara.
Sweden and Finland had jointly applied for NATO membership in May 2022 before the impression of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. At the beginning of April, Finland became the 31st member of the western defense alliance. Sweden, on the other hand, still lacks the approval of Türkiye and Hungary. The Turkish leadership is blocking Sweden's accession, primarily by pointing out that Sweden is taking insufficient action against "terrorist organizations". Her main concern is the banned Kurdish Workers' Party PKK.
Erdogan has attested that Sweden is taking steps in the right direction, according to a statement from the Turkish communications office after the phone call with Scholz on Wednesday. However, there are still "unacceptable" circumstances such as the approval of demonstrations at which "terrorist propaganda" is spread, Erdogan said.
In view of these words, it is uncertain whether the blockade will be resolved by Vilnius. At a press conference with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Wednesday, Stoltenberg stressed that work was being done to complete Sweden's accession. He therefore convened a meeting between high-ranking representatives from Turkey, Sweden and Finland for Thursday in a week's time. The foreign ministers of the countries as well as heads of secret services and national security advisors are to take part.
The fact that a Koran was set on fire at a public demonstration in Stockholm for the first time in months - and of all times during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice and in front of the city's central mosque, does not fit into these plans at all. The Festival of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is the most important festival in Islam, along with the breaking of the fast after Ramadan.
Footage from Swedish broadcaster SVT showed a man burning a copy of the Holy Scriptures of Islam behind police tape on Wednesday afternoon. In addition to him, apparently only one other man took part in the action. However, dozens of people gathered behind the barriers, some shouting angry words, a man threw a stone and was taken away. Overall, however, it remained relatively quiet.
The Stockholm police then filed a complaint against the organizer for incitement to hatred and violation of an applicable ban on setting fire to fire. She had previously approved the protest after other actions of this type were banned in February. Swedish courts had ruled that the police did not have the right to refuse permission to burn the Koran.
Islamophobic actions in Stockholm - including the burning of the Koran and the hanging of a doll resembling Erdogan - caused considerable trouble with Turkey in January. It is unclear to what extent Wednesday's provocation will result in new problems for Swedish-Turkish relations. However, on the first day of the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan condemned such an action as "wicked". He told the Swedish police that to condone such acts is to make oneself guilty.