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Turkey Torpedoes NATO Expansion Due To Quran-Burning Protests

(Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Sweden would not get Turkey’s approval to join NATO after anti-Muslim protests took place in Stockholm over the weekend.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden’s capital Saturday to protest both Ankara’s reluctance to agree to NATO expansion and Turkey’s military aggression against Kurdish insurgents in Turkey and Syria. Political figure Rasmus Paludan, who leads Denmark’s right-wing “Hard Line” party, burned a Quran during the demonstrations.

“It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,” Erdogan said of the protests. “So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and then expect our support for getting into NATO. That’s not happening.”

Any current NATO member can veto the admission of new countries to the alliance. Finland has indicated it may pursue a standalone bid to join if Sweden is locked out.

“It may be time to examine Finland’s application as a stand-alone in the interim though it is still the ‘default setting’ to approach their integration to NATO as a single ‘block’ application,” Alp Sevimlisoy, a 2021 millenium fellow at the Atlantic Council and Turkish geopolitical strategist, told the Daily Caller.

Turkey and Hungary have been the only two members of NATO not to endorse the alliance expanding to add Finland and Sweden. Turkey’s objection to Sweden has centered on Swedish support for Kurdish groups Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Ankara classifies the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization, but Sweden has offered support to the Kurds and enforces a weapons embargo on Turkey due to its aggression against Kurdish groups in Syria.

“A stronger NATO will arrive via more cohesive NATO that ensures that the foe of one is the foe of all, especially when it comes to internationally outlawed groups,” Sevimlisoy said. He added that NATO members must “remain committed to countering foes that are deemed as internationally illegal organizations therefore strengthening the alliance by safeguarding each other’s populace and their respective nation states itself.”

Swedish leaders condemned the Quran-burning protests as “appalling,” but have rejected Turkey’s demands that they be quashed, citing the importance of free speech and expression in the country. Ankara disagrees.

“Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. (RELATED: Senate Approves Sweden And Finland’s Entry To NATO)

“If they love terror organization members and enemies of Islam so much, we recommend that they refer their countries’ security to them,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan recently asked Sweden and Finland to extradite 130 alleged terrorists to Turkey in order for their NATO bids to be approved. The three countries signed a joint agreement in June 2022, when the two countries were first beginning the process of joining NATO, in which they agreed to address Turkey’s deportation and extradition requests for Kurds.

Finland and Sweden first began making moves to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has cited NATO expansion as one justification for its invasion.