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‘Turkey won’t approve Sweden’s NATO bid as long as Quran-burning protests continue’

Ankara, Feb 2 (IANS) Turkey will not approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO as long as it continues to allow Quran-burning protests, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that his country looks positively on Finland’s application for membership of the military alliance.

“Sweden! Don’t even bother to try. We cannot say ‘yes’ to your joining NATO as long as you continue to allow burning and tearing of my sacred book, the Quran,” Erdogan said in an address to Parliament on Wednesday.

“Our view on Finland is positive, but not for Sweden,” he added.

Ankara’s backlash against Stockholm’s NATO bid comes after the latter’s permission for recent protests involving Quran burning in the Nordic country, as well as the issue of extradition of people affiliated with anti-Turkey groups.

The Swedish police allowed a protest in which a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm in January.

Sweden and Finland submitted their formal requests to join NATO in May 2022, which were initially opposed by Turkey, an alliance member, citing their support for anti-Ankara Kurdish organisations and political dissidents.

A month later, Turkey, Sweden and Finland reached a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ahead of the NATO summit held in Madrid.

Under the MoU, Turkey agreed to lift its veto on the NATO bids by Finland and Sweden, which in return pledged to support Ankara’s fight against terrorism and address its “pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”.

The Turkish parliament has not ratified the Nordic countries’ NATO bids so far, citing that they have yet to meet Ankara’s requests.