As Sweden continues its battle with Turkey for ascension into NATO, the Nordic country has approved a Quran-burning demonstration outside a mosque in Stockholm on June 28. The decision to approve the demonstration is expected to draw the indignation of Turkey weeks prior to NATO's Vilnius Summit where the topic of Sweden's membership is expected to be high on the agenda.
While NATO officials have previously expressed that not resolving Sweden's membership hold-up by the July summit would send a humiliating message of weakness to the alliance's enemies, Sweden doesn't seem to be helping its own cause.
Sweden's troubles began shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, when both Sweden and Finland submitted a joint bid for membership to NATO, seeking the alliance's protection and security should Russia's war in Ukraine spread to the whole of Europe.
However, in order to acquire membership, a country must receive a unanimous vote from all of NATO's member states, and Turkey and Hungary have both voted against allowing Sweden to join the alliance. The hold-up has been so persistent that Finland was forced to join NATO under its own membership.
Turkey has refused to allow Sweden to join NATO as Ankara has accused Stockholm of harboring members and supporters of the PKK and its subsidiary, the People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey views as terror organizations.
While Finland was finally allowed to join the alliance in March, Sweden's membership has been pending for months.
While Sweden recently overhauled its border policy, making it the strictest in Europe, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continued to deny Sweden access to NATO over Stockholm's repeated refusal to meet several of Ankara's requirements for joining the alliance. Stockholm has insisted that to limit PKK supporters from conducting demonstrations on the street, such as the one recently approved by the government, would be to infringe upon its citizens' free speech.
One of Turkey's biggest issues with Sweden has been Swedish authorities' allowance for a far-right anti-immigrant group to burn several Qurans practically on the doorstep of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said that the Quran burning was "extremely serious" and was done in an attempt to sabotage the country's bid for NATO membership. NATO's upcoming Vilnius Summit is July 11-12 and is likely to see some tense moments as Ankra and Stockholm continue to struggle over Sweden's application to join the alliance.
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