Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at a press conference on Tuesday that the people who organized a Quran burning and hanged an effigy of Turkey’s president in Stockholm were “useful idiots” for foreign powers who want to harm Sweden as it seeks to join NATO, Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported.
Kristersson held a press conference after a security policy meeting with leaders of parties represented in the Swedish parliament. Kristersson said the most important thing about the meeting was that all party leaders, regardless of their views on Sweden’s intention to join NATO, should have a good understanding of the situation. ”Everyone needs to contribute to cooling the temperature,” he said.
”The individuals and groups that have carried out these kinds of acts are ‘useful idiots’ for forces that want to harm Sweden,” Kristersson said.
Kristersson said individual protests can be linked to larger international events and create bigger consequences, referring to the protests that have taken place in Stockholm in recent weeks.
A stunt was staged in Stockholm on January 12 in which an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was hung by its feet. Turkey summoned Sweden’s ambassador in Ankara to protest the incident.
Following the effigy hanging, a Quran was burned outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on the afternoon of January 21, staged by Rasmus Paludan, a politician from the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, causing Sweden to pause its NATO negotiations with Turkey.
After the security meeting, Kristersson spoke on the phone with UN Secretary-General António Guterres. ”I informed him about the current situation in Sweden and asked if they can help us explain that Sweden is not looking for a fight with the outside world,” he said.
Mikael Tofvesson, head of the operations department at the Agency for Psychological Defense, who also attended the press conference, said the tone towards Sweden is now more aggressive than before.
According to Tofvesson, foreign actors are also trying to spread the idea that Sweden is a legitimate target for terrorism.
The burning of the Quran has further heightened tensions between Turkey and Sweden, which have increased due to Turkey’s opposition to Sweden joining the NATO military alliance.
Ankara announced a decision to postpone NATO accession talks with Sweden one day after President Erdoğan criticized Sweden for allowing the burning of the Quran in Stockholm.
Sweden is hoping to join NATO, dropping decades of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, they need the consent of Turkey, a member of the alliance, to join.
All of NATO’s 30 members must ratify the joint bids, which they have all done with the exception of Hungary and Turkey. Hungary has said it plans to do so in February.
Turkey has stated that its approval is conditional on Swedish steps to extradite 130 people it accuses of terrorism or of having played a part in a 2016 coup attempt against President Erdoğan.