The possibility of Sweden and Finland joining the Western defense alliance before Turkey’s presidential and legislative elections in May was further diminished by Erdogan’s enraged remarks.
Only Turkey and Hungary have not accepted the historic decision by the Nordic neighbors to violate their long-standing military non-alignment in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, has pledged that the two bids will be approved by his parliament next month. But Erdogan has dug in his heels heading into a close election in which he is trying to energise his nationalist electoral base.
“Sweden should not expect support from us for NATO,” Erdogan said in his first official response to the act by an anti-Islam politician during a protest on Saturday that was approved by the Swedish police despite Turkey’s objections.
“It is clear that those who caused such a disgrace in front of our country’s embassy can no longer expect any benevolence from us regarding their application for NATO membership,” Erdogan said.
Sweden reacted with extreme caution to Erdogan’s remarks.
“I cannot comment on the statement tonight. First, I want to understand exactly what was said,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told Sweden’s TT news agency.
While vehemently denouncing the conduct of far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, Swedish politicians defended their nation’s expansive notion of free speech.
Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, tweeted on Saturday, “I want to express my condolences for all Muslims who are outraged by what has transpired in Stockholm today.
Erdogan has already laid out a number of stringent requirements, one of which is that Sweden extradite dozens of individuals, most of whom are Kurds, who Ankara either accuses of “terrorism” or of taking part in a botched 2016 attempt.
A rush of visits by top ministers to Ankara suggested that Sweden’s courting of Turkey was progressing.
A constitutional modification passed by Stockholm will allow for the passage of the stricter anti-terror regulations that Ankara has wanted.
However, things took a negative turn earlier this month when a tiny Kurdish group erected an effigy of Erdogan in front of Stockholm’s city hall.
The invitation for the Swedish parliament speaker to visit Ankara was withdrawn, and Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador.
Similar reactions followed the Swedish police’s decision to permit Paludan’s protests.
Turkey canceled the visit of Sweden’s defense minister and summoned the ambassador to Stockholm for another reprimand.
Erdogan claimed that burning the Muslim holy book constituted a hate crime for which free speech could not be used as an excuse.
In remarks that were broadcast nationwide, he declared that “no one has the right to degrade the saints.”
“We speak the truth when we speak, and when someone defies us, we put them in their place.”