Swedish Foreign Minister Exchanges Barbs With Turkish Minister in Tense Meeting

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (file photo)

In an unusual trading of barbs aimed at each other’s countries, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Turkey exchanged pointed remarks at each other in front of the media on Wednesday.

Standing next to Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu began the extremely unusual exchange by criticizing Sweden’s generally pro-Turkish policy during what had been —  up to then — a normal diplomatic press conference in which the sides presented their thoughts in an orderly and polite manner.

Cavusoglu suddenly questioned why the Swedish Foreign Minister had urged Turkey to withdraw its troops from Syria. “I want to ask this: On whose authority are you telling Turkey to withdraw from Syria, or warning Turkey?” the Turkish Foreign Minister asked angrily.

Linde responded to Cavusoglu’s undiplomatic words with the rejoinder: “I am your guest. I would not take a debate here.”

In a response to Turkey’s repeated accusations against Greece over the purported mistreatment of migrants, Cavusoglu asked Linde “If you are so sensitive on human rights, why don’t you for once criticize Greece?”

Meant as a way to chide Turkey about the jailing of hundreds of journalists and pro-Kurdish politicians, the Swedish Foreign Minister, not missing a beat, replied “I will just hope that everybody in Turkey will have the possibility to express their views as frank as you are doing, Minister.”

On his part, Cavusoglu maintained that “we need to distinguish between our Kurdish brothers and (PKK and YPG) terrorists.”

The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter added in a story after the testy exchange that Turkey and Greek relations in the East Med had been put “back to square one.”