Türkiye concerned by 'increasing anti-Islamic rhetoric, actions in Europe': President Erdogan

Ankara expects 'sincere steps from Sweden in fight against Islamophobia,' says Turkish president

Faruk Zorlu  | 01.02.2023 - Update : 02.02.2023
Türkiye concerned by 'increasing anti-Islamic rhetoric, actions in Europe': President Erdogan


Growing anti-Islamic rhetoric in Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries, is a cause for concern for Türkiye, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.

“We are concerned about the increasing anti-Islamic rhetoric and actions in Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries,” Erdogan said in a televised interview in Ankara, referring to recent attacks on Islam’s holy book the Quran in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Türkiye expects “sincere steps from Sweden in the fight against Islamophobia,” he said.

“We expect Sweden and Finland to fully comply with their commitments in the tripartite memorandum,” Erdogan said, referring to an agreement signed last June between Türkiye and the two Nordic states for their NATO membership.

Terming the memorandum of understanding a “roadmap,” he said it is essential that the countries fulfill their promises, especially in the fight against terrorism.

Apologies from Sweden will not fix the issues, he said, adding that the country has become “a safe haven for terrorist organizations.”

Sweden has not fulfilled its commitments regarding the fight against terrorism under the memorandum, he said, adding the terrorist groups continue their activities in Sweden.

Terror organizations have targeted Türkiye in "the ugliest way," he said, adding that due to recent developments, we had to postpone visits of the Swedish Parliament Speaker and defense minister.

Recent attacks targeting Muslims and insulting sacred values is a "hate crime," he said, adding under the guise of freedom of expression, it is "unacceptable to openly and publicly commit hate crimes against Muslims."

His statement comes after Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan last week burned copies of the Quran on two separate occasions, outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden and then in front of a mosque in Denmark.

Paludan said he would burn the Muslim holy book every Friday until Sweden is admitted to the NATO alliance.

Edwin Wagensveld, a far-right Dutch politician and leader of the Islamophobic group, Pegida, also tore out pages from a Quran in The Hague and burned the pages in a pan. He posted an internet video of the act.

Expecting its allies to address Türkiye's security concerns, he said: "As of the moment, we do not favor Sweden's NATO bid. also, we evaluate Finland's membership process differently. If Finland manages the process as it is now, we will do our part."

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, a decision spurred by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Under a memorandum signed last June between Türkiye, Sweden, and Finland, the two Nordic countries pledged to take steps against terrorists to gain membership in the NATO alliance.

In the agreement, Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to terror groups such as the PKK and its offshoots, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), and to extradite terror suspects to Türkiye, among other steps.  

Sending tanks not element for solution

Turning to the Ukraine war, Erdogan said: “I cannot say that sending tanks to Ukraine could be an element of a solution. All of this is risky and only benefits gun barons."

He said: "Is the sending tanks and ectara by the US and Germany to Ukraine a solution?", asserting that he will continue talks with the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to find a way to secure lasting peace.

So far, the US announced it will supply 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine while Germany will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks and authorized other countries to transfer to Ukraine German-made tanks from their inventories.

Norway, Slovakia, the UK, France and Poland also announced they will provide Ukraine with armored vehicles.

Ankara is always ready to take on the role of facilitator and mediator for lasting peace, he said, adding we expect support from Europe and the world to call for peace and negotiation.

He emphasized that they are always part of the solution regarding the grain corridor, prisoner exchange and security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and humanitarian aid.

Negotiations need to be supported with the declaration of a cease-fire and the vision of a fair solution, he said.

"I always keep my hopes for peace alive. If I had lost this hope, the grain corridor would not have been opened, there would have been no prisoner exchange," he said. 

Tensions with Greece,

On tensions with Greece, he said Türkiye “will not just stand by as Greece takes actions that threaten its security,” vowing that Ankara “will respond both legally and in the field.”

Greece’s recent attitude toward Türkiye is against the spirit of good neighborly relations and the NATO alliance, he said, adding it is neither "possible to explain nor accept the attitude that Greece has taken toward Türkiye in the last period."

He reiterated that Athens is arming islands very close to Türkiye’s coasts and major settlements in violation of international law.

“Greece's allegations that Türkiye violates its airspace are baseless. Actually, Greece violates our airspace and increases tensions,” he said, adding, “of course, our air force and coast guard do not and will not leave these hostile actions unanswered."  

Türkiye, Russia, Syria meeting

Touching on the latest development on ongoing operations as a part of Türkiye's fight against terrorism, Erdogan said his country’s fight against terrorism also contributes to the preservation of Syria's territorial integrity and unity. Therefore, (Syria's Bashar al-Assad) regime should be aware.

The regime should fight against "the separatist attitude of the terrorist organizations of the PKK/YPG and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces)," he said.

Speaking about the process of establishing dialogue between Türkiye and Syria, Erdogan said: "A gradual work is being carried out in the dialogue with the Syrian regime."

"The attitudes of the parties will determine how the dialogue process between Türkiye and Syria will be shaped. In any case, we take the necessary measures to protect our national security," he said.

"Finding a solution to the conflict by advancing the political process may constitute a window of opportunity," he said.

The return of the Syrians should be "voluntarily, safely, and in a dignified manner," he said, adding that currently, approximately 500,000 refugees have started to voluntarily return to Syria.

Although no date or location has yet been announced, the foreign ministers of the Türkiye, Russia and Syria are expected to meet, which would mark another high level of talks since the Syrian civil war began in early 2011.

On Dec. 28, the Turkish, Russian,and Syrian defense ministers met in Moscow to discuss counterterrorism efforts in Syria and agreed to continue tripartite meetings to ensure stability in Syria and the wider region.

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