Turkey pulled 40 soldiers out of a NATO exercise in Norway, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, after his name appeared in a list of enemies on a poster at the drill. Turkish Republic founder Kemal Ataturk was also named as an “enemy” in the same briefing, prompting apologies from both Norway and NATO.
Erdogan said an “enemy poster”, featuring his name on one side and a picture of modern Turkey’s founder Ataturk, on the other, was unfurled at the training exercise in Norway, prompting a decision by Turkey’s military chief and European Union minister to pull the troops out.
Following Erdogan’s remarks, NATO clarified that two separate incidents occurred. Initially, a technician used a picture of Ataturk he found online to represent enemy ranks. After Turkish officers confirmed the incident, the technician was dismissed from duty.
Another incident involved a Norwegian officer of Turkish origin, who opened a fake Erdoğan account on NATO’s internal social media network and posted anti-alliance comments in the name of the president, according to the Daily Sabah.
NATO apologizes to Turkey, claims they are an important part of the Alliance
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement saying that he apologizes for the offense that has been caused.
“The individual in question was immediately removed from the exercise by the Joint Warfare Center, and an investigation is underway. He was a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee. Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to allied security,” the statement said.
The Joint Warfare Center, which conducts the drills, is a multinational NATO unit some 200 kilometers southwest of Oslo. It is currently led by Major General 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.
Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen apologized for the incident.
“The message does not reflect Norway’s views or policies and I apologize for the content of the message. Turkey is an important ally in NATO, and we value our good cooperation,” Bakke-Jensen said in a statement.
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 July failed 2016 coup attempt. The five officers said that they feared being arrested and tortured in Turkey.