Last Wednesday, Kurdish protesters burnt an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside the City Hall in Stockholm. The effigy was hung upside down from a lamppost. The Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson strongly condemned the incident, stating that is was ‘an act of sabotage’ against Sweden’s NATO accession, and described what happened as extremely serious. According to the PM, the shameful act ‘is dangerous for Swedish security.’
Turkish Reaction: NATO Accession for Sweden a No
The incident exacerbated the early tense diplomatic relations between Stockholm and Ankara. The foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu stated on Friday that Ankara expected decisive action from Sweden. By merely condemning the tragedy, Sweden ‘cannot escape its responsibilities’ according to the foreign minister. Cavusoglu was referring the the Turkish claim that Sweden harbours terrorist groups such as the Kurdish militants who were behind the effigy-burning. ‘Those who support the terrorist group are working to keep Sweden from joining NATO. Sweden will either submit to them or abide by its commitments’, said Cavusoglu. Turkey, a member of NATO, summoned the Swedish ambassador on Thursday to demand an explanation to the incident.
According to Ankara, Sweden needs to take a stronger position against organisations that Turkey views as terrorists, primarily Kurdish militants and the group it holds responsible for a failed coup attempt in 2016. Erdogan’s attorney reportedly filed a legal lawsuit following the event, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency in Turkey.
Huseyin Aydin, the president’s attorney, stated that the incident was believed to have been planned by the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States, echoing pro-government Turkish media that had broadcast images of the incident. Last year, Sweden and Finland reached a deal with Turkey to address Ankara’s concerns over their NATO bids, which were announced in May and require the consent of all 30 NATO members.
Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson, however, said on Sunday Sweden was certain Turkey would accept its NATO application, but Ankara’s demands would not all be met.
Péter Szijjártó: ‘Shameful and Disgusting’
The hanging and the burning of the effigy of President Erdogan was strongly criticized by Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó last Friday. At a non-related joint press conference with Mahmut Ozert, the Turkish Minister of Education, Szijjártó declared that the act of the Kurdish protestors was ‘shameful and disgusting.’
He stated that making jokes about hanging someone was startling in and of itself and that it was extremely disrespectful to not only the President, but also the Turkish people. ‘I think it is reasonable to expect that such behaviour not be tolerated in the European Union, which prides itself on its moral standards,’ he said. ‘We are certainly expressing solidarity and sympathy with the people of Turkey and President Erdogan,’ the minister said, stressing that Hungary expects the local authorities to find the offenders.