HARSH There is not much bad talk about Finland in Turkey, but on the streets of the capital Ankara you can hear opinions about Sweden, and they are surprisingly negative.
– I don’t trust Sweden, I don’t want them in NATO. Finland is welcome. I trust the Finnish government and Finns, says Gursel Can.
On the pedestrian street in the center of Ankara, you can hear other friendly comments about Finland, but nobody really likes Sweden.
– In my opinion, Sweden does not keep its promises, and this concerns, for example, the propaganda of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, Can says.
In recent days, Sweden has been criticized particularly strongly in Turkey. Finland is still mainly in a secondary role in the Turkish media.
The most recent subject of outrage is a far-right politician Rasmus Paludanin an abduction in which he burned the Muslim holy book Koran on Saturday near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
On Sunday, people gathered in Turkish mosques to read the Koran, and in that context there were also demonstrations against Sweden.
More on the topic: In Turkey, angry protesters burned the Swedish flag and sabotaged the Swedish consulate
The burning of the Koran annoys many
In Turkey, the burning of the Koran has received plenty of space in pro-government media.
– I understand people’s reactions well when you see how Sweden has treated Muslims, Mizgin Altun says.
Altun says that he trusts NATO and that he considers the inclusion of Finland and Sweden to be a good thing in itself.
The burning of the Koran organized by far-right Rasmus Paludan in the Turkish government media has been linked to the Swedish government because the authorities did not prevent the demonstration.
Another source of outrage is the recent kidnapping in which the president was hanged in the center of Stockholm Recep Tayyip Erdoğan performing doll.
In the background was a group that said it supported the Syrian Kurds and opposed Sweden’s NATO membership.
Although there has been a big uproar in Turkey over the burning of the Koran, the longer-term source of irritation is the image that Sweden has supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK.
The Turkish media has been drumming up this message for a long time.
A very negative image of Sweden has been created in the government-supporting media as an unreliable country that supports the PKK.
“The Kurdish issue is important”
Head of the Ankara office Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı from the US-based German Marshall Fund think tank says that the anger of many Turks towards the PKK is not always understood outside of Turkey.
– Anger towards the PKK is a really significant thing. Sometimes outsiders say that the PKK is a marginal phenomenon in the big picture. But the Turks see it differently, says Ünlühisarcıklı
Finland and Sweden need Turkey’s ratification for membership, but that won’t happen now.
According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey cannot currently support Sweden’s NATO membership.
Negotiations also appear to be on hold, with a planned February official meeting canceled, at least according to Turkish media reports.
In Ünlühisarcıklı’s opinion, it seems impossible that progress would be made in the NATO matter before the parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey. They will probably be held in May.
There can also be a second round in the presidential election if no candidate gets a majority of the votes.
– If the elections are held in mid-May, the parliament will stop working in mid-March. The president or the speaker of the parliament can convene the parliament again, but it will not happen before the elections, says Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı.
“The elections are becoming really tight”
The ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership is not something you can gather votes for. You can certainly appeal to the voters by opposing, especially if you connect it to the PKK and religion.
– The elections are becoming really tight. Now we are in a situation where President Erdoğan thinks carefully about his decisions, whether they will bring votes or not, says Ünlühisarcıklı.
The biggest election theme in Turkey is the country’s economic problems.
Recently, President Erdoğan has announced several social reforms. For example, those who have worked for 25 years can retire early.
Of course, reforms and stabilization of the Turkish economy require money.
More on the topic: In Turkey, the economic crisis shakes the throne of President Erdoğan – the administration is attracting money from abroad and trying to silence critics
Does Vladimir Putin have a role?
President Vladimir Putin Russia openly supports Erdoğan’s regime. But would it be possible for Putin and Erdoğan to also keep in touch about Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership?
Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı states that Russia’s importance to the Turkish economy is great. Russia is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and large sums of money have been channeled to Turkey through the construction project.
There is other significant economic cooperation between the countries.
More on the topic: Turkey became a life hole for Russia both in the economy and in tourism – the United States already warned about too close relations
So the suspicions about some kind of coordination are not completely unfounded.
– It may be that the support received for Turkey’s economy is an addition that will decide the tight elections. Erdoğan cannot completely ignore this, and Putin’s support does not come without conditions, says Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı.
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