Turkish prosecutors to probe Erdogan effigy incident in Sweden -state media
By Daren Butler and Anna Ringstrom
ISTANBUL/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Turkey’s foreign minister said on Friday Ankara expected firm action from Sweden after an incident in Stockholm in which an effigy of President Tayyip Erdogan was strung up, adding further diplomatic strain to Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
Footage first shared on Twitter by the so-called Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava – a reference to Kurdish regions of Syria – showed an Erdogan effigy hung by its feet outside Stockholm city hall with a few people standing by.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday that Sweden “cannot escape its responsibilities” by only condemning the incident.
“Supporters of the terrorist organisation are trying to prevent Sweden’s NATO membership. Sweden will either bow down to these or keep its promises,” Cavusoglu said.
NATO member Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador on Thursday over the incident, which comes after months of efforts by Stockholm to win Ankara’s backing for the bid it began after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Cavusoglu added that Turkey would continue talks with Sweden and fellow candidate Finland on their NATO bid and they will soon hold a meeting, which is likely to take place in Brussels.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told broadcaster TV4 on Friday that the act was “extremely serious” and he considered it a sabotage against the NATO application. Police said they had no knowledge of the incident until it was over.
Ankara has said Sweden needed to take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and the organisation it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
A number of Kurds live in exile in Sweden.
Turkish state-owned Anadolu news agency said an investigation into the incident was opened after Erdogan’s lawyer filed a legal petition.
“A criminal complaint has been filed with the Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office, demanding that an investigation be launched against the perpetrators,” the president’s lawyer Huseyin Aydin wrote on Twitter.
Echoing pro-government Turkish media that broadcast footage of the incident, Aydin said it was understood to have been organised by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and United States.
Sweden and Finland signed an agreement with Turkey last year aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, which were made in May and require the approval of all 30 NATO member states.
Kristersson told TV4 “the risk is there” that the incident could affect the NATO process.
“It is aimed, I would say, as a sabotage against the Swedish NATO application,” he said. “It is dangerous for Swedish security to act in this way.”
Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin condemned the “disgusting and heinous” protest and said Swedish authorities were obliged to take concrete steps under the law and the deal with Turkey.
“Unless the activities of terrorist organizations are halted, it is not possible for the NATO membership process to progress,” he said on Twitter.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said relations with Turkey were important and condemned the incident as shameless.
“The government understands that Turkey is reacting, although we regret that the speaker’s trip has been postponed,” he said in a statement. “Implementation of the memorandum continues.”
On Sunday, Kristersson said Sweden was confident Turkey would approve its NATO bid but it would not meet all the conditions Ankara has set.
(Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander in Stockholm and Huseyin Hayatsever and Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara;Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Angus MacSwan)