Sweden regrets that offending Erdogan during protest could jeopardize NATO membership

Archive – Turkey’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom – Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom has expressed regret that Wednesday’s demonstration in Stockholm, which denigrated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could jeopardize the Scandinavian country’s membership in the Atlantic Alliance.

«This shameless act now risks complicating and delaying the process in which Sweden and our future ally Turkey, step by step, built mutual trust to enable Turkish ratification of Swedish membership in NATO,» Billstrom said.

Speaking to Swedish broadcaster SVT, Minister Billstrom assured that Stockholm takes what happened «incredibly seriously» and denounced the sort of «mock execution» staged during a demonstration in the capital on Wednesday.

The head of Swedish diplomacy pointed out that the event is already reprehensible in itself, but it is even more reprehensible in a country, Sweden, where two high-ranking politicians have been assassinated in the last 40 years: Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 and Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in 2003.

The rally took place on Wednesday next to Stockholm City Hall and was attended by «sympathizers» of Kurdish groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the People’s Protection Units (YPG), according to the official Turkish news agency Anatolia.

Ankara’s response has not been lukewarm and on Thursday it summoned the Swedish ambassador, Staffan Herrstrom, while this Friday the Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into what happened. In addition, a visit of the president of the Swedish Parliament, Andreas Norlén, next week to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Mustafa Sentop, has been cancelled.

Turkey has demanded from Sweden and Finland a thorough prosecution of PKK supporters, among other issues, to facilitate the accession of both Scandinavian nations to the Atlantic Alliance, still pending ratification by the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments.