Erdogan effigy ‘act of sabotage’ against NATO bid
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Friday denounced a Kurdish protest in central Stockholm, where an effigy of Turkey’s president was hanged from a lamppost, as an act of “sabotage” against Sweden’s bid to joined NATO.
The protest outside City Hall on Wednesday drew an angry response from Turkey, a NATO member, which had already held back approval of Sweden’s request to join the western military alliance until the government in Stockholm met its demands.
The Speaker of the Parliament of Turkey, Mustafa Sentop, canceled the visit of the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Andreas Norlén, which was scheduled for next Tuesday. Turkish lawmakers must ratify Sweden’s request to NATO for the Nordic country to become a member.
Turkey has conditioned its approval on Stockholm’s crackdown on exiled Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers a threat to its national security. The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador on Thursday regarding the Stockholm demonstration.
Kristersson condemned the incident involving the figure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“People tried to show their views on Swedish NATO membership through a disgusting way of portraying President Erdogan in almost something that looked like an execution.” Kristersson told reporters after a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “This is bad in every sense.”
Kristersson said he understood why Turkey was outraged, saying “we would show the same reaction if this was aimed at a Swedish leader”.
He earlier told Swedish broadcaster TV4 on Friday that it was “extremely serious” to stage a “moral execution of a democratically elected foreign leader” in a country where two top politicians have been killed. Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986 and Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was stabbed to death in 2003.
“I would say this is sabotage against the Swedish NATO application,” Kristersson said. “It is dangerous for Swedish security to act in this way.”
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He expressed the hope that the meeting between the Turkish and Swedish parliamentarians will take place at a later date.
Pictures posted on social media showed a mannequin resembling Erdogan hanging upside down. A group calling itself the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava claimed to be behind the protest. Rojava is a Kurdish name for northern and eastern Syria.
A man who identified himself only as Andreas told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet that he was among those who put up the figure “to create a reaction. To show that Turkey is not a democracy. And we did it.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described the protest as a racist act and a hate crime. Sweden would not be able to “get away” with a simple punishment of the incident, he said.
“This action took place in the center of the city, right in front of the municipality, in front of everyone,” Cavusoglu said. “Sweden has a responsibility here.”
“Sweden and Finland made a commitment about what they can do and put their signature on it,” the minister said, referring to a memorandum of understanding in which Sweden and Finland pledged, among other things, to crack down on the groups’ activities militant. “We want nothing more or nothing less. Whatever has been agreed, we want it to be fulfilled.”
Earlier on Friday, Cavusoglu said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and affiliated Kurdish groups in Syria were “laying mines on Sweden’s path to NATO membership.”
“It is Sweden’s decision whether it wants to clear these mines or knowingly step on them,” he said in an interview with Turkish state broadcaster TRT.
Ankara’s chief prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the incident following a criminal complaint filed by Erdogan’s lawyers and immediately sent an official request for information and evidence from Swedish authorities, TRT reported.
In Ankara on Friday, about 50 members of an association representing the families of soldiers or policemen killed in the conflict with Kurdish rebels protested outside the Swedish embassy, the private DHA agency reported.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said the protest “now risks complicating and delaying the process that Sweden and its future NATO ally, Turkey, have started, working step by step to build trust in each other”. He used the Turkish government’s preferred name for Turkey.
“This act plays directly into Russia’s hands and weakens our country, and this happened during the worst security situation since World War II,” the Swedish foreign minister said.
Alarmed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland abandoned their old policies of military non-commitment and applied to join NATO in May. All 30 member states must agree to admit the two Nordic neighbors to the security organization.
The Turkish government has pressed Finland and Sweden to crack down on groups it considers terrorist organizations and to extradite people suspected of terrorism-related crimes. Cavusoglu said last month that Sweden was not even “halfway” in addressing his country’s concerns.
Meanwhile, Cavusoglu said a third meeting between Turkish, Swedish and Finnish officials will take place at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Jan M. Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark. Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report from Kiruna, Sweden.