NATO’s secretary-general apologized to Turkey over military exercises during which Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were reportedly depicted as ‘enemies.’
Erdogan said Turkey withdrew 40 of its soldiers participating in the drills at NATO‘s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, in protest of the incident and slammed the alliance.
The Turkish president said Ataturk’s picture and his own name were featured on an ‘enemy chart’ during the drills.
‘There can be no such unity, no such alliance,’ he said in an address to his ruling party’s provincial leaders.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stands in front of a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a ceremony marking the 79th death anniversary of Ataturk at the mausoleum dedidacted to his memory in Ankara
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement saying: ‘I apologize for the offense caused.’
He said the incident was the result of an ‘individual’s actions’ and didn’t reflect the views of the alliance.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said apologised for the incident and said Turkey is a valued NATO ally
The individual, described as a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee, was removed from the exercise and an investigation was underway, Stoltenberg said.
‘It will be for the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action,’ Stoltenberg added.
‘Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to allied security.’
The Joint Warfare Centre is a multi-national NATO unit based in Stavanger, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Oslo.
It is currently led by Maj. Gen. Andrzej Reudowicz of Poland. According to its website, it has a staff of 250 made up of civilians from 11 NATO member states, including Turkey.
In March, the Norwegian government caused fury in Turkey by granting political asylum to five Turkish officers based in Norway who had refused to return home after the failed July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. The five officers said that they feared being arrested and tortured in Turkey.