ANKARA, Turkey - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Wednesday that Turkey will not allow Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation NATO military alliance as long as it permits protests of Islam's holy book.
Turkey, which has been holding off approving Sweden and Finland's membership in the Western military alliance, has been infuriated by a series of demonstrations in Stockholm by activists who have burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy and hanged an effigy of Erdogan. It has indefinitely postponed a key meeting in Brussels that would have discussed the entry of the two Nordic countries into NATO.
Sweden, don't bother! As long as you allow my holy book, the Quran, to be burned and torn, and you do so together with your security forces, we won't say yes to your entry into NATO, Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling party's legislators.
Sweden's government officials have distanced themselves from the protests, caused by a far-right anti-Islam activist who burned copies of the Quran in Stockholm and Copenhagen, Denmark, while stressing that the demonstrations are protected by freedom of speech.
On Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson denounced the activists who carried out the demonstrations as a useful idiot for foreign powers who want to inflict harm to the Scandinavian country as it seeks to join NATO.
Kristersson told reporters in Stockholm that foreign actors, even state actors, have used these manifestations to inflame the situation in a way that is directly harmful to Swedish security.