Hungary criticized Sweden for “foolishness” for allowing the Koran burning protest to take place while it was negotiating with Turkey to join NATO.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Budapest on January 31, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that burning a sacred book of another faith is “unacceptable”.
Szijjarto’s comments mentioned that the Swedish police on January 21 allowed anti-Muslim activist Rasmus Paludan, a Swedish and Danish national, to hold a protest in Stockholm and burn a copy of the Koran first. Turkish embassy to protest that Ankara has not yet approved Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO.
Ankara responded by canceling the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson and stopping negotiations with Stockholm and Helsinki on joining NATO. The Koran is the most important religious text of Islam. Most Turks are Muslim.
Referring to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson saying the burning of the Koran is protected under “freedom of speech”, Mr Szijjarto criticized this statement as “foolish”.
“If a country wants to join NATO and is trying to win the support of Turkey, that country should behave more carefully,” the Hungarian foreign minister said.
Sweden and Finland in May 2022 ended decades of military non-alignment and applied to join NATO. New members of the NATO alliance require approval from all 30 member states.
Turkey objected because the two Nordic countries had not met their demands, mainly related to the Kurdish militia that Ankara considers “terrorists” and responsible for the 2016 coup plot. Sweden has a larger Kurdish community than Finland and has more serious disagreements with Ankara.
Turkey also reacted angrily to the Swedish prosecutor’s decision not to charge a pro-Kurdish group with an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside the Stockholm city court.
Meanwhile, the Hungarian opposition accused Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party of procrastinating in the approval vote. Orban, a close ally of Turkish President Erdogan, is said to have drawn a vaguely neutral line in the Ukraine war, supporting Kiev only indifferently.
Foreign Minister Szijjarto said the Hungarian legislature would decide next month on approving two applications to join NATO. “We have a clear position. We support NATO expansion,” he said.
Huyen Le (Theo AFP)