Swedish defense minister has been invited to visit Turkey

Jan 18, 2023, 2:07 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2023, 4:10 am

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said Thursday that he had been invited to Ankara by his Turkish counterpart, the first visit by a Swedish official to Turkey since an effigy of the Turkish president was hung from a lamppost in Stockholm, sparking tensions between the two governments.

“I have I received an invitation from Defense Minister (Hulusi) Akar to go to Ankara, and I hope and look forward to making that trip at the end of next week,” Jonson said in an interview with Swedish broadcaster SVT.

Turkey has denounced as “absurd” a decision by a Swedish prosecutor not to open an investigation into the protest outside Stockholm City Hall. Ankara canceled a visit by the speaker of the Swedish parliament in reaction to the incident.

Swedish District Attorney Lucas Eriksson told The Associated Press that he had decided not to open a criminal investigation into the hanging of an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Stockholm, saying no illegal act was committed.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the protest amounted to racism and a hate crime.

The decision not to investigate is “against universal law and is a crime under international law,” Cavusoglu said.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has called the protest as an act of “sabotage” against Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

Turkey has been holding off on approving Sweden’s application to join the military alliance until the Swedish government cracks down on groups that Ankara regards as security threats,

Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied to join NATO in May. All 30 member countries must agree to admit the two Nordic neighbors into the security organization.

The Turkish government has pressed Finland and Sweden to crack down on Kurdish exiles it accuses of links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party and groups it considers to be terrorist organizations, and to extradite people suspected of terror-related crimes. Cavusoglu said last month that Sweden was not even “halfway” through addressing his country’s concerns.

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