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Sweden should not expect support for Nato bid, says Turkey's president

Zeynep Bilginsoy, Associated Press

Turkey's president has said Sweden should not expect support for Nato membership following weekend protests in Stockholm by an anti-Islam activist and pro-Kurdish groups.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Rasmus Paludan's Koran-burning protest on Saturday, saying it was an insult to everyone, especially to Muslims.

He was particularly incensed at Swedish authorities for allowing the demonstration to take place outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which he called an attack on 85 million Turkish citizens.

“It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their Nato membership application,” Mr Erdogan said in his first comments regarding the weekend protests, saying Sweden must have calculated the consequences of permitting Mr Paludan's demonstration.

Mr Erdogan also criticised Sweden for pro-Kurdish protests where demonstrators waved flags of various Kurdish groups, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey.

The PKK is considered a terrorist group in Turkey, the European Union and the United States, but its symbols are not banned in Sweden.

“So you will let terror organisations run wild on your avenues and streets and then expect our support for getting into Nato. That's not happening,” Mr Erdogan said, referring to Sweden and Finland's accession bids for the military alliance.

He said if Sweden will not show respect to Turkey or Muslims, then “they won't see any support from us on the Nato issue”.

Turkey has been holding up the Nordic nations' historic Nato bids, saying they must first address Turkey's security concerns.

Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish constitution and gives people extensive rights to express their views publicly, though incitement to violence or hate speech is not allowed.

Demonstrators must apply to police for a permit for a public gathering.

Police can deny such permits only on exceptional grounds, such as risks to public safety.

Top Swedish officials have said freedom of expression is crucial to democracy while criticising Mr Paludan's actions as disrespectful and ones they disagree with.

Anti-Islam activist Mr Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, established far-right parties in both countries that have failed to win any seats in national, regional or municipal elections.

In last year's parliamentary election in Sweden, his party received just 156 votes nationwide.

His Koran-burning sparked counter-protests in Turkey over the weekend, where demonstrators burned his photograph and a Swedish flag.

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