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Divisive Nobel Winner Peter Handke To Receive Prize Amid Boycotts, Controversy

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Peter Handke attends a news conference at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 6.

Turkey says it is joining Albania and Kosovo in boycotting the Nobel awards ceremony on December 10 to protest 2019 literature-prize laureate Peter Handke, who has been criticized for backing late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The Turkish ambassador to Sweden, Hakki Emre Yunt, told Turkish broadcaster Hurriyet on December 9 he would not attend the awards ceremony the next day in Stockholm, where at least two anti-Handke demonstrations are expected to unfold.

The move came after a Turkish government official this weekend called on the Swedish Academy to change the decision to award Handke the prize.

Kosovo's outgoing foreign minister, Behgjet Pacolli, announced he had instructed the ambassador in Sweden to "boycott" the ceremony, saying that "a writer who supported Milosevic and his genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo does not deserve the Nobel Prize."

Acting Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj announced a similar move, writing in a tweet that "justification of war atrocities during the Yugoslavia breakup must not be rewarded."

Hundreds of people are expected to assemble for an anti-Handke protest at the Norrmalmstorg Square in central Stockholm. Another demonstration is planned outside the Stockholm Concert Hall, where the prize ceremony takes place.

The Swedish Academy awarded the 77-year-old Austrian the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 10 for what it called "an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."

Handke's win was immediately met with outrage in many parts of the Balkans and elsewhere because of the eulogy he delivered at Milosevic's 2006 funeral in honor of the former president.

Milosevic died while being tried by a UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands for genocide and other war crimes committed during the conflicts that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Handke did not answer questions about his support for Milosevic during a December 6 news conference in Stockholm. "I like literature, not opinions," he told reporters.

Handke is to be formally handed the 9 million-crown ($935,000) award on December 10 before attending the traditional Nobel banquet later the same day.

All ambassadors to Sweden are invited to both the ceremony and the banquet.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa and AFP
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