Sweden should ‘act differently’ to join Nato, says Hungary’s foreign minister

Sweden should ‘act differently’ to join Nato, says Hungary’s foreign minister
(Tibor Illyes/MTI/AP)

Sweden’s government should “act differently” if it wants to clinch Turkish support for its bid to join Nato, Hungary’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, adding that a recent Koran-burning protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm was “unacceptable”.

Peter Szijjarto made the remark at a news conference following talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Hungary’s capital, Budapest.

Both diplomats referred to the anti-Turkish protest on January 21 which increased tensions between Ankara and Stockholm as Sweden seeks Turkey’s approval to join the Nato military alliance.

Mr Szijjarto said: “As a Christian and as a Catholic, I must say that burning of a holy book of another religion is an unacceptable act”.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, right, and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, second left, held talks in Budapest on Tuesday (Tibor Illyes/MTI/AP)

He also criticised a statement by Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, that, while the burning of the Koran was inappropriate and “deeply disrespectful”, it fell under Swedish freedom of speech protections.

“Stating that the burning of a sacred book is part of freedom of speech is just plain stupidity,” Mr Szijjarto said, adding that “perhaps they (Sweden) should act differently than that” if they want to secure Ankara’s backing.

The meeting in Budapest came as Turkey and Hungary remain the only two Nato members that have not approved bids by Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance.

The northern European neighbours, which share a border with Russia, have dropped their long-standing military neutrality and sought Nato membership in response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

A unanimous vote of all 30 Nato members is necessary before new countries are admitted.

Mr Cavusoglu said Turkey shares Hungary’s wish for Nato enlargement, but that it is now “impossible for us to confirm (Sweden’s) accession” into the alliance.

He called the Koran-burning protest a “provocation which will take us nowhere, it can only lead to chaos”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it is ‘impossible to confirm’ Sweden’s accession to Nato following a Koran-burning protest in Stockholm (Tibor Illyes/MTI/AP)

Ankara has also said it is displeased with Sweden’s efforts to crack down on groups that it considers to be terrorists or pose a threat to the country, including Kurdish groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Sweden should not expect Turkey’s support in its membership bid.

Hungary’s government was expected to vote on accepting Sweden and Finland into Nato by the end of last year.

The issue will be on the Hungarian parliament’s agenda during its first session of the year in February, Mr Szijjarto said.

He added that Hungary has a “clear standpoint” on admitting Sweden and Finland into Nato, but will not attempt to influence Turkey either way.

“I never urge any other foreign governments to do things which are not of our concern,” he said.

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