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Hungary says Sweden should ‘act differently’ if it wants to join NATO

The Swedish government should “act differently” if it wants to win Turkey’s support for its NATO bid, the Hungarian foreign minister said on Tuesday, adding that a recent demonstration burning the Koran outside the Swedish embassy Turkey in Stockholm was “unacceptable”.

Peter Szijjarto made the remark during a press conference after talks with his Turkish counterpart in Budapest, the Hungarian capital. The two diplomats addressed the January 21 anti-Turkish protest which has heightened tensions between Ankara and Stockholm as Sweden seeks Turkey’s approval to join the NATO military alliance.

“As a Christian and as a Catholic, I have to say that burning a holy book from another religion is an unacceptable act,” Szijjarto said, and criticized a statement by Sweden’s prime minister that if burning the Koran was inappropriate and “deeply disrespectful”, it fell under Sweden’s freedom of expression protection.

“Stating that burning a holy book is part of freedom of speech is just stupid,” Szijjarto said, adding that “maybe they (Sweden) should do something different from that” if they want to get the support from Ankara.

The Budapest meeting came as Turkey and Hungary remain the only two NATO members who have not endorsed offers from Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance.

Europe’s northern neighbors – Finland has the EU’s longest border with Russia – have been closely aligned with NATO for decades, but only applied for full membership after the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow.

Unanimous approval and ratification of the treaty by all 30 NATO countries is required to admit new members.

Cavusoglu said Turkey shared Hungary’s wish to expand NATO, but it was now “impossible for us to confirm (Sweden’s) membership” in the alliance. He called the protest burning the Quran a “provocation that will get us nowhere, it can only lead to chaos”.

Ankara has also said it is unhappy with Sweden’s efforts to crack down on groups it considers terrorist 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.

The Hungarian government was due to vote on accepting Sweden and Finland into NATO by the end of last year. The issue will be on the agenda of the Hungarian parliament during its first session of the year in February, Szijjarto said.

Szijjarto said Hungary had a “clear position” on admitting Sweden and Finland to NATO, but would not try to influence Turkey anyway.

“I never urge other foreign governments to do things that don’t concern us,” Szijjarto said.

euronews Gt

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