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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

US insists Sweden and Finland ready to join NATO despite Turkish protests

The US State Department has said Finland and Sweden are ready to join NATO despite protests from Turkey.

This was preceded by a statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Sweden should not rely on Ankara’s support to join NATO after a protest at the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm over the weekend, which included the burning of the Quran.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that burning books that many revere as sacred is an act of profound disrespect.

“Something can be legal but terrible,” he added.

“Finland and Sweden are ready to join the alliance,” Price said. “They are ready to join the alliance because of their military capabilities, the long-standing security partnership that we have had with Finland and Sweden for decades… They are also ready to join the alliance because they are highly developed democracies.

Price’s comments came after Erdogan said Sweden should not rely on Turkish support for NATO membership following a weekend protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm during which a copy of the Quran was burned.

“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer count on our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said after the cabinet meeting.

Saturday’s protests in Stockholm against Turkey’s and Sweden’s NATO aspirations, in which a Quran was burned, have heightened tensions with Turkey, whose support Sweden needs to join a military alliance.

The cremation of the Quran was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right Hard Deal party, who also has Swedish nationality. Previously, he had already organized demonstrations during which he burned the Quran. Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, have condemned the incident.

In Washington, Price suggested that the Quran burning may not have been a random event.

“We understand that the people who could be behind what happened in Sweden could be involved in an international effort to undermine transatlantic unity and the unity of our European allies and partners,” he said. Price. “We believe that Finland and Sweden are ready to become members of NATO.”

Last year, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but these applications must be approved by the 30 members of the alliance.

Earlier, Ankara said that Sweden, in particular, should take a clear stance towards those Turkey considers terrorists. They are mainly Kurdish militias and a group that Ankara accuses of having attempted a coup in Turkey in 2016.

“If you love members of terrorist organizations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, we recommend that you turn to them for help in keeping your countries safe,” he said. said, Erdogan.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto called the Quran fire “an unfortunate event”, but stressed that “security throughout the NATO area” should be a priority.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was in close contact with representatives from Sweden, Finland and Turkey.

“Of course, I am against the kind of behavior we saw on the streets of Stockholm, but it is not illegal, and freedom of speech is a very precious right,” he said. he declares.

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