Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reportedly said on Thursday that the Swedish government was involved in the burning of the Koran at a protest in Stockholm last weekend.
The rising tensions between the two countries come at a time when Sweden is relying on Turkey for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance, of which Turkey is a member, against Ukraine. In light of the war in Russia.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Cavusoglu blamed the Swedish government after police in the capital Stockholm allowed a demonstration by right-wing politician Rasmus Paludan and blamed him for burning an Islamic holy book.
Turkish-Swedish relations suffered a major blow last week after a rally outside the Turkish embassy in the city last week in which anti-immigration politician Palodan burned a copy of the Koran.
The incident sparked outrage in the Turkish capital, Ankara, where protesters took to the streets and burned a Swedish flag outside the Swedish embassy in response.
Speaking on Thursday, Çavuşoğlu said the Swedish government “participated in this crime by allowing this heinous act to continue”, according to Anadolu.
The foreign minister called the incident a “racist attack” that has nothing to do with freedom of thought, the agency said.
Cavusoglu advised Sweden to “undermine” its path to NATO membership or “ruin its chance by stepping on these landmines,” Anadolu reported.
Earlier this week, Ankara called for a February meeting between Turkey, Sweden and Finland to be postponed, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.
Finland is also applying to join NATO with its Nordic neighbor after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, sparking renewed security concerns across the region.
Anadolu reported Thursday that a meeting about Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications has been postponed in light of the current “unhealthy political environment.”
The three countries have met in the past under a “tripartite memorandum” to discuss the NATO membership applications of Sweden and Finland.
Ankara also canceled a planned visit to Turkey by Swedish Defense Minister Paul Johnson in the wake of the incident.
Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but all 30 member states, including Turkey, must approve their bids.
Turkey has said that Sweden in particular must first take a clear stand against what it sees as terrorists, particularly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt. .