Hungary slams Swedish ‘stupidity’ after Quran book burning jeopardizes NATO accession talks

People set a Swedish flag on fire during a small protest outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
By Thomas Brooke
2 Min Read

Sweden was short-sighted in its decision to allow a fringe Danish politician to burn a copy of the Quran in a publicly held demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm last month, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Tuesday.

Speaking alongside his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has been in Budapest this week to meet with Hungarian government officials, Szijjártó said that burning a sacred book of another faith was “unacceptable.” He also said that the Swedish government’s defense of the provocative stunt as freedom of speech was “stupidity.”

“If a country wants to join NATO and is endeavoring to win over Turkish support, then perhaps it should behave a little more carefully,” he told reporters.

The book burning by Danish fringe politician, Rasmus Paludan, sparked a diplomatic fallout between Stockholm and Ankara, with the latter canceling NATO accession talks as a result.

Mass demonstrations were held across the Islamic world, including in Istanbul where angry protesters burned Swedish flags and called for retribution.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters his government will make separate decisions regarding Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership applications, hinting he could give the green light for Finland to join the defense alliance and continue to oppose Swedish membership.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu doubled down on the suggestion on Monday, telling reporters, “I think it would be fair to distinguish between a problematic country and a less problematic country.”

Despite the incident, Hungary remains committed to seeing both Scandinavian countries join the defense alliance.

“We have a clear standpoint. We support the expansion of NATO,” Szijjártó said.

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