Turkey cancels Swedish defence minister's visit over Koran-burning protest

Turkey cancelled a visit by Sweden's defence minister to Ankara on Saturday in response to a protest planned in Stockholm at which a copy of the Koran was to be burned.

"Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson's visit to Turkey on January 27 has lost its significance and meaning at this point. Therefore, we cancelled the visit," Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying by state news agency Anadolu.

Sweden has failed to take measures against "disgusting" anti-Turkish protests on their soil, Akar said. Ankara is angry that Stockholm is letting right-wing politician Rasmus Paludan protest in front of the Turkish embassy later on Saturday.

Paludan said he planned to burn a copy of the Koran, Islam's sacred text, during his protest. Stockholm is also bracing for a series of separate demonstrations planned by pro-Kurdish and pro-Turkish groups later on Saturday.

The visit scheduled by the Swedish minister sought to ease Turkish concerns about terrorism that Ankara has raised, saying these must be addressed before Sweden's application to join the NATO alliance can be ratified.

Turkey accuses Sweden of supporting groups which Ankara considers terrorists. Tensions between Stockholm and Ankara have been running high for two weeks since a controversial protest in which an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hanged from its feet in Stockholm.

Turkey strongly condemned the incident, summoned the Swedish ambassador and cancelled a visit by Swedish Parliamentary Speaker Andreas Norlen to Ankara.

Sweden and neighbouring Finland applied to join NATO in May last year in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. All 30 NATO members must ratify their bids.

Only Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve the expansion.    (dpa)