Erdogan pulls troops from Nato drill after his name is put on an ‘enemy chart’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Ankara had pulled out 40 Turkish troops from a Nato exercise in Norway, in a new outburst of tensions with its Western allies.
Erdogan said in a televised speech to ruling party members he had ordered the troops to be removed from the exercise after an incident on Thursday deemed offensive to himself and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who were listed on an “enemy chart”.
Turkey, which became a member of Nato in 1952, is a key member of the alliance but tensions have grown in recent months over its crackdown after the failed coup and Ankara’s increasingly close alliance with Russia.
Without going into detail over the incident, Erdogan said an image of Ataturk and his own name were used “and these were the targets”.
He said Turkey’s top general Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omar Celik – who were on their way to a Nato conference in Halifax, Canada – had told him of the incident.
“They said ‘this has happened … and we are going to take out our 40 soldiers’ and I said ‘absolutely, don’t hesitate, take them out right now’,” Erdogan said.
“It’s not possible to have this kind of alliance,” he said, speaking in front of giant pictures of himself and Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement saying: “I apologise for the offence caused.”
He said the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” and did not reflect the views of the alliance. 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.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press