Erdogan's Swedish message captures headlines worldwide: NATO bid on fire
By News Center
Messages President Erdogan gave from Ankara after the cabinet meeting yesterday vis-a-vis Sweden and NATO had echoes all over the world. International media outlets shared the clear message from Ankara to Stockholm. It was pointed out that NATO member Turkiye has the right to prevent NATO membership of a third country. The British press chose the headline "Swedish chance of joining NATO, burning after the burning of the Quran".
A copy of the holy Quran was burned during a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm over the weekend under Swedish police protection. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden late Monday that its chances of joining NATO would suffer consequently.
"Those who allow such blasphemy outside our embassy in Stockholm can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership," Erdogan said in a speech after a Cabinet meeting.
"If you love members of terrorist organizations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, then we advise you to seek their support for your countries' security," he said.
Rasmus Paludan, the head of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, was responsible for the Quran burning.
The stunt was a "disgrace," Erdogan said.
Erdogan said the burning of the Muslims' holy book was a hate crime that could not be defended by free speech.
"The heinous action in Sweden is an insult to everyone, who respects the fundamental rights and freedoms of people, especially Muslims," he added.
"We've said from the onset that you have terrorist groups roaming your streets, and everywhere, and then you expect us to support you in joining NATO. There's no such thing. Don't expect support from us."
Erdogan also emphasized that the act being carried out in front of the Turkish Embassy turns the issue into both a religious as well as a national issue.
“There is no need for the Swedish government to talk to us about rights and freedoms. If you are so respectful of rights and freedoms, you will first respect the religious belief of the Republic of Turkiye or Muslims,” Erdogan said further.
"I cannot comment on the statement tonight. First, I want to understand exactly what was said," Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told Sweden's TT news agency.
Swedish leaders roundly condemned Paludan's actions but defended their country's broad definition of free speech.
"I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson tweeted on Saturday.
Tensions between Stockholm and Ankara have been running especially high for two weeks since a protest in which an effigy of Erdogan was hanged from its feet in Stockholm.
Turkiye has frequently voiced that it does not oppose NATO enlargement, but rather criticizes Stockholm for not taking action against elements that are posing a security threat to Ankara.
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Ankara has previously said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against terrorists.
Last June, Turkiye, and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.
But recent provocative demonstrations by terrorist group supporters and Islamophobic figures in Stockholm have led Turkish leaders to question Sweden's commitment to take the steps necessary to gain NATO membership.
Ankara has long criticized Stockholm for harboring members of various terrorist organizations, particularly members of the PKK and, over recent years, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) – the organization behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt in Turkiye.
Ahead of a historic NATO summit, the three countries signed a trilateral deal in June that prevented a Turkish veto. In the memorandum, the Nordic countries said they would address Turkiye’s extradition requests for terrorists. In addition, the joint directive states that Finland and Sweden “will not provide support to the organization described as FETÖ” and terrorist groups.
Turkiye has provided a list of wanted individuals to Sweden and expects the Scandinavian nation to take swift action to show that its demands are being addressed.
On Turkiye's upcoming elections, Erdogan said May 14 is the "most suitable" date for holding the next parliamentary and presidential ballots.
"As a result of our comprehensive evaluations, we have seen that Sunday, May 14, 2023, is the most suitable date for the elections in all respects."
"We want to lead our country to the elections on this date in line with the procedures specified in the Constitution," Erdogan said.
As Turkiye's ruler since 2003, first as prime minister and then president since 2014, Erdogan said he aims to raise the country to the level of the most powerful states in the world and the nation to the level of the most prosperous societies.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) are partners under the People’s Alliance, with Erdogan serving as the alliance’s candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.
The government has already upped spending, including dropping a retirement age requirement for millions and substantial hikes to minimum wage and pensions.
If no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote, a second round of voting would be held on May 28.
A six-party opposition alliance has yet to put forth a presidential candidate. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest in Parliament, has so far been excluded from the alliance and said it might nominate its own candidate.
The opposition is formed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Felicity Party (SP), the Good Party (İP), the Future Party (GP), the Democrat Party (DP), and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA).
One of the criticisms put forth by the opposition is that a president cannot serve a third term, which would exclude Erdogan.
As Article 101 of the Constitution states “a person can be elected president for a maximum of two times”.
Other criticism has focused on the possibility of moving elections to an earlier date, for which there are two procedures. Either Parliament has to approve it, which requires the yes vote of 360 parliamentarians that cannot be reached by the People’s Alliance alone – opening the need for opposition support; or a second possibility is Erdogan using his presidential authority to take the decision for elections, which would, however, cause problems for a third term prospect.
Under Article 116 of the Constitution, “if the parliament decides to renew the elections in the second term of the president, the president can be a candidate once again”.
“We would be pleased if our parliament, with a three-fifths majority, makes this date according to our Constitution. If the required majority in the Assembly is not achieved, we, as the president, will make our decision and start the process with a calendar that will ensure that the elections can be held on May 14,” Erdogan said on the issue.
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