Turkey cancels Swedish defence minister visit after Koran burning protest permit

Photo: Jonas Gratzer/Getty Images

Turkey has cancelled a planned visit by Sweden's Defense Minister, Pal Jonson, after Swedish authorities granted permission for protests in Stockholm. The visit, which was scheduled to take place next week, was intended to nudge Turkey to ratify Sweden's bid to join NATO.

In a statement, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said, “At this point, the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson to Türkiye on January 27 has become meaningless. So we cancelled the visit.”

He went on to criticise the lack of measures taken by Swedish authorities to prevent the protests, which include the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and said, “It is unacceptable not to make a move or react to these (protests). The necessary things needed to be done, measures should have been taken.”

The cancellation of the visit is the latest in a series of tensions between Turkey and Sweden. In recent years, there have been several instances of diplomatic disputes between the two countries.It comes at a sensitive time in bilateral relations when both Sweden and Finland are seeking Turkey's approval of their bids to join NATO.

The two Nordic states applied last year to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but their bids must be approved by all 30 NATO member states. Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the applications.

This new development is likely to strain the relationship even further between the two countries and raises questions about the future of the NATO bids from Sweden and Finland.

The burning of the Quran and the reaction from Turkey will likely be seen as a major setback for the two Nordic states, as they seek to gain Turkey's approval for their bids to join the military alliance.