Jens Stoltenberg: With the exception of Turkey and Hungary, all NATO countries have agreed to the northern expansion
Photo: OLIVIER HOSLET / EPA
A well-known right-wing extremist burned a Koran in Stockholm, causing a new escalation in the NATO conflict between Sweden and Turkey.
Jens is now trying to appease Stoltenberg.
The NATO Secretary General has rejected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's threat to block Sweden's NATO membership because of the controversial protest.
Freedom of expression is a valuable asset "in Sweden and in all other NATO countries" and such protests are "not automatically illegal," said Stoltenberg on Monday.
Meanwhile, the United States suspected that the right-wing extremist Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan might have committed an act of sabotage against the NATO unit.
He himself finds the burning of the Koran inappropriate as a form of protest, Stoltenberg told the Welt television channel.
However, freedom of expression must be protected.
So far, Turkey has shown itself to be quite cooperative in the NATO accession debate, said Stoltenberg.
The ratification of the accession protocols must not fail in the final meters.
28 of 30 NATO countries have already approved NATO expansion in their national parliaments, said Stoltenberg.
"And of course I ask the remaining Allies - Hungary and Turkey - to speed up these procedures in their parliaments."
USA suspect deliberate sabotage
The United States also warned of a split in NATO: "The burning of books that are sacred is a deeply disrespectful act," said State Department spokesman Ned Price in Washington.
It is possible that in Stockholm it was the act of a "provocateur" who "deliberately tried to put distance between two of our close partners - Turkey and Sweden".
Paludan had burned a Koran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday.
The Turkish head of state Erdoğan then said on Monday that Sweden could no longer count on Turkey's support for its planned NATO membership.
It is "clear that those who made such a disgrace possible in front of our country's embassy can no longer expect any goodwill from us regarding their desire to join NATO."
The Swedish police had allowed the demonstration with reference to the constitution and freedom of assembly and expression.
Turkey then canceled a visit by the Swedish defense minister, who had wanted to promote his country's NATO membership in Turkey.
As a prerequisite for its approval of Sweden's application to join NATO, Ankara has already demanded that Stockholm take a tougher stance against Kurdish activists, whom the Turkish government regards as "terrorists".