The Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson on Friday (13 January) deplored as “sabotage” of his country’s NATO bid the demonstration in Stockholm in which a puppet of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was hung from its feet.

On Thursday, footage shared by pro-government Turkish media showed what they said was a protest by PKK members in which they hung a puppet of Erdoğan outside the Stockholm city hall. Very few people could be seen in the footage.

In the meantime, Turkey summoned Sweden’s ambassador to Ankara, a diplomatic source said.

Sweden has been seeking Turkey’s approval to join NATO, for which it applied after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Ankara has said Sweden needed to take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and the organisation it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

“People tried to show their view on the Swedish NATO accession in a disgusting way, portraying President Erdoğan in something looking like an execution. This is bad in every sense”, Kristersson said.

He added in Swedish, according to translation, that the incident was viewed with utmost concern not least because in Sweden, two high-level politicians have been killed in the recent past.

Indeed, Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot to death on Stockholm’s main street in 1986 as he returned from cinema with his wife.  Anna Lindh, Swedish foreign minister, was stabbed to death in 1998, in a Stockholm garment store.

“We see it as an act of sabotage against our application to become members of NATO, both for Sweden and Finland. I can see clearly why Turkey is outraged, we would show the same reaction if this was aimed at Swedish leaders”, Kristersson said.

He was speaking alongside Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the presser in the northern Swedish town of Kiruna, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Before that, Sweden’s foreign ministry confirmed their ambassador had been called to the foreign ministry in Ankara, but declined to give details of what was discussed.

Scenes of protests in Stockholm has been a particular issue mentioned by Turkish authorities in the past, with Erdogan saying members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) should not be allowed to parade around Sweden.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Stockholm condemned the incident but did not refer directly to any country.

“The government protects an open debate about political choices, but strongly distances itself from threats and hatred against political representatives,” he said on Twitter.

“Portraying a popularly elected president as being executed outside City Hall is abhorrent.”

“That PKK terrorist can challenge the Swedish government at the heart of Stockholm is proof that the Swedish authorities have not taken necessary steps against terrorism,” the Turkish presidency’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said on Twitter.

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