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Without respecting Islam and quashing terror groups, Sweden should keep NATO hopes low: Turkish president

Without changing course on showing respect for Islam and cracking down on terror groups, Sweden should not expect any good news from Türkiye on its NATO bid, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

"Those who caused such a disgrace in front of our embassy should not expect any benevolence from us on their NATO membership applications," Erdogan said after a Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.

Erdogan's pointed remarks came after Rasmus Paludan, an extreme-right Danish politician, on Saturday burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, under police protection and with permission from the Swedish government.

"If you do not show respect to the religious beliefs of the Republic of Türkiye or Muslims, you will not receive any support for NATO (membership) from us," he added.

Erdogan stressed that no individual has the freedom to insult the faith of Muslims or other religions and beliefs.

"The heinous action in Sweden is an insult to everyone who respects the fundamental rights and freedoms of people, especially Muslims," he added.

Turning to a recent provocative protest in Stockholm by supporters of the terrorist group PKK, also with police permission, Erdogan said: “We’ve said from the beginning, you have terrorist groups roam your streets, and everywhere, and then you expect us to support you in joining NATO. There’s no such thing. Don’t expect such support from us.”

He added: "If they love the members of the terrorist organization and the enemies of Islam that much, we advise them to delegate their country's defense to them."

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups, including the PKK.

Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.

But recent provocative demonstrations by terrorist group supporters and Islamophobic figures in Stockholm have led Turkish leaders to question Sweden’s commitment to take the steps necessary to gain NATO membership.

This year’s elections in Türkiye

On Türkiye’s upcoming elections, Erdogan said May 14 is the "most suitable" date for holding the next parliamentary and presidential elections.

“As a result of our comprehensive evaluations, we have seen that Sunday, May 14, 2023, is the most suitable date for the elections in all respects."

"We want to lead our country to the elections on this date in line with the procedures specified in the Constitution," Erdogan said.

As Türkiye’s ruler since 2003 – first as prime minister and then since 2014, as president – Erdogan said he aims to raise the country to the level of the most powerful states in the world and the nation to the level of the most prosperous societies.

Source: Anadolu Agency