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Türkiye cancels visit by Swedish Defense Minister after Stockholm's permission for Quran burning

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Türkiye canceled the planned visit from Swedish Defence Minister Pal Johnson because "it holds no meaning at the moment."

Agencies and A News WORLD
Published January 21,2023

Türkiye announced on Saturday that it canceled a planned visit by Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson on Jan. 27 in response to Stockholm's permission for Quran burning.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Türkiye canceled the planned visit from Minister Johnson because "it holds no meaning at the moment."

"We regretfully witnessed that no measures were taken as a result of these vile and heinous acts against Türkiye and our President (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan). Therefore, at this point, the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Jonson to Türkiye on Jan. 27 has become meaningless. So we canceled the visit," Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters on Friday after a NATO meeting at Ramstein airbase in Germany.

The move announced by Akar came after Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), was given permission to burn the Quran on Saturday outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he was concerned that the demonstration risks further delaying Türkiye's ratification of Sweden's NATO bid. However, he added that it would be "very inappropriate" for him to call for a person to not be allowed to carry out a demonstration.

Noting that he conveyed his reactions on this issue to Johnson, on the sidelines of meeting in Germany, Akar said it was unacceptable to remain silent, adding: "It was necessary to take action and take precautions."

Stressing Türkiye's support for NATO's open door policy, Akar added: "All we want is the fulfillment of the commitments in this memorandum. We expect Sweden and Finland to do their part, their homework."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned Swedish Ambassador to Ankara Staffan Herrstrom, who was told that Türkiye "strongly condemns this provocative act, which is clearly a hate crime, that Sweden's attitude is unacceptable, that Ankara expects the act not to be allowed, and insults to sacred values cannot be defended under the guise of democratic rights."

Türkiye warned Sweden that allowing propaganda activities that PKK-affiliated circles were preparing to carry out in Stockholm on Saturday was a "clear violation" of the tripartite deal, according to the Turkish diplomatic sources.

Last week, Türkiye called on Sweden to take steps against terror groups after a demonstration in Stockholm, where supporters of the PKK terrorist organization hung in effigy by the feet a figure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then uploaded footage of the provocation along with threats against Türkiye and Erdogan.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24.

But Türkiye-a NATO member for more than 70 years-voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups, including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.

F-16 fighter jets talks with US

Akar also said that he held a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin on the sidelines of the meeting in Germany, adding: "During the meeting, we once again saw the strong support of the US Department of Defense for Türkiye on this issue."

Ankara requested F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits in October 2021. The $6-billion deal would include the sale of 40 jets, as well as modernization kits for 79 warplanes that the Turkish Air Force already has in its inventory.

The US State Department last week informally notified Congress of the potential sale.

"It's a process. It's not something that can be completed in a jiffy. We consider the process to be positive so far," Akar said.

Akar noted that the fighter jets would strengthen not only Türkiye, but also NATO, adding that a "strong Türkiye means strong armed forces, strong NATO, strong alliance. We expect everyone to understand this."

Ukraine meeting in Germany

During the meeting Akar said: "We once again expressed that we respect Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, and that we do not recognize the annexation of its lands."

Türkiye expressed at the meeting that the tragedy in Ukraine needed to end with no further loss of life, and that solutions should be found through peaceful means and methods, he added.

Akar underlined that so far, 18 million tons of Ukrainian grain had been carried via the Black Sea grain corridor that Türkiye helped broker last year in a bid to avert a potential food crisis amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

"NATO Secretary General (Jens) Stoltenberg, who attended the meeting, also confirmed the importance of our actions within the framework of NATO," Akar said.

On the sidelines of the meeting at Ramstein base, Akar held separate bilateral meetings with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blasczczak, and Kajsa Ollongren, minister of defense of the Netherlands.

He also met with Guido Crosetto, who was appointed Italy's minister of defense, and conveyed his wishes for success.

The minister also held meetings with Germany's new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola, Romania's Angel Tilvar, and Ukraine's Oleksii Reznikov.