Hungary accused Sweden of “stupidity” Tuesday over an extremist incident in Stockholm that led Turkey to suspend NATO accession talks with the Nordic country and its neighbor Finland.
Turkey and Hungary remain the only members of the 30-nation Western defence alliance to have failed to ratify the membership bids by Sweden and Finland.
But a decision by Swedish police to allow a protest at which a far-right extremist burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm earlier this month sparked outrage in Ankara.
Burning a sacred book of another faith was “unacceptable” said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto at a joint press conference with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Budapest.
Stating that the act fell under “freedom of speech” protections was “stupidity” added Szijjarto, referring to a statement by the Swedish Prime Minister after the incident.
“If a country wants to join NATO and is endeavoring to win over Turkish support then perhaps it should behave a little more carefully,” said Szijjarto.
New members to the NATO alliance require unanimous approval from all 30 NATO member states.
Turkey has refused to ratify the two countries’ NATO membership bids, primarily because of Sweden’s refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to outlawed Kurdish fighters and a failed 2016 coup attempt.
Sweden has a bigger Kurdish diaspora than Finland and a more serious dispute with Ankara.
Turkey also reacted with fury to a Swedish prosecutor’s decision not to press charges against a pro-Kurdish group that hung an effigy of Erdogan by its ankles outside Stockholm City Court.
Ankara last week suspended Sweden and Finland’s accession talks.
The Hungarian opposition meanwhile has accused Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling party Fidesz of dragging its feet over the ratification vote.
Orban, a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has also plotted an ambiguous neutral line on the Ukraine war, offering Kyiv only lukewarm support.
Szijjarto said Tuesday that the Hungarian legislature will decide next month on approving both NATO bids.
“We have a clear standpoint. We support the expansion of NATO,” he said.
Sweden and Finland dropped decades of military non-alignment with bids to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.