By SUZAN FRASER and JAN M. OLSEN
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Friday denounced a protest by Kurds in central Stockholm where an effigy of Turkey’s president was hung from a lamppost as an act of sabotage against Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
The protest outside City Hall on Wednesday drew an angry backlash from Turkey, a NATO member which already had held off approving Sweden’s application to become part of the Western military alliance until the government in Stockholm satisfies its demands.
The speaker of Turkey’s parliament, Mustafa Sentop, canceled a visit by Andreas Norlen, the speaker of the Swedish Riksdag, that was scheduled for Monday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Turkish lawmakers need to ratify Sweden’s NATO application for the Nordic nation to become a member,
Turkey has made its approval conditional on Stockholm cracking down on Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers a threat to national security. The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador on Thursday over the Stockholm demonstration.
Kristersson condemned the effigy. He told Swedish broadcaster TV4 on Friday that it was “extremely serious” to stage a “mock execution of a foreign democratically elected leader” in a country where two leading politicians have been murdered. 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.”
Photographs posted on social media showed a mannequin resembling Erdogan hanging upside down. A group calling itself the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava claimed it was behind the protest. Rojava is a Kurdish name for north and east Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and affiliated Kurdish groups in Syria were “laying mines on the path of Sweden’s 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.
Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied to join NATO in May. All 30 member countries must agree to admit the two Nordic neighbors into the security organization.
The Turkish government has pressed Finland and Sweden to crack down on groups it considers to be terrorist organizations and to extradite people suspected of terror-related crimes. Cavusoglu said last month that Sweden was not even “halfway” through addressing his country’s concerns.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen.
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