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Swedish foreign minister avoids question on Quran burnings

Sweden's foreign minister on Tuesday refrained from answering questions about the recent burning of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Tobias Billstrom attended a session of the European Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee in Brussels to speak about the priorities of Sweden's term presidency, just days after an extremist politician burned the copy of the Quran with both police protection and permission from the Swedish government.

Marton Gyongyosi, a Hungarian independent member of the parliament, asked how Sweden would speed up its NATO membership process amid the latest protests in Stockholm targeting Türkiye and its president, as well as the Quran burning.

Rasmus Paludan, an extremist Swedish-Danish politician, was behind the Quran burning in the Swedish capital on Saturday.

This was followed a day later by Edwin Wagensveld, a far-right Dutch politician and leader of the Islamophobic group Pegida, tearing out pages from a copy of the Quran in The Hague. Wagensveld's video on Twitter showed that he burned the torn-out pages of the holy book in a pan.

Gyongyosi noted that these incidents have had a negative impact on the stance of Ankara, a NATO ally of over seven decades that Sweden and Finland need to ratify their membership applications to join the alliance.

Billstrom left this question unanswered.

After the session, the Swedish foreign minister answered the questions of Swedish journalists but ignored those of Anadolu, despite having heard them.

He told the Swedish reporters that Stockholm was contact with Helsinki to better understand Türkiye's latest statements on the matter.

Billstrom also underlined that Stockholm would abide by a memorandum it signed last June between with Türkiye and Finland, under which the two Nordic countries pledged to take steps against terrorists to gain membership in the NATO alliance, which they sought due to Russia-Ukraine war.

Amid recent statements from Helsinki that it could consider advancing its NATO membership application without Sweden, Billstrom said his Finnish counterpart had told him this would not happen.

He said that negotiations were facing difficulties at the moment, he said that Sweden and Finland would together re-evaluate the issue and take action in favor of the memorandum's continuation.

On Monday, Billstrom reiterated that his government did not support the burning of holy scriptures but also claimed that freedom of expression "makes it legal from a Swedish point of view."

"The Swedish government has been very clear that we both have freedom of expression in Sweden, but we also have made it very clear that we do not side with those people who have committed this," Billstrom said ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Source: Anadolu Agency