NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Norwegian defence minister, and Polish Major General Andrzej Reudowicz issue apology after Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and President Erdogan were depicted as 'enemies' in a NATO drill in Norway
Turkey has withdrawn its troops from a NATO military drill in Norway after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his name and the picture of the Republic of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were used in an 'enemy chart'.
"There was an incident in Norway," Erdogan told governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) members in the capital Ankara.
"They used an enemy chart in Norway. In that chart, there was my name and [Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk's picture."
The president said he was informed about the issue by Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik.
"They told me that they are withdrawing our 40 soldiers from there [Norway]," Erdogan said.
"I told them to do that immediately. There can be no alliance like that."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the Allied Force Command in a written statement apologised to Turkey over the scandal.
“I apologise for the offence that has been caused.”
“The incidents were the result of an individual’s actions and do not reflect the views of NATO,” he said in a written statement.
The individual involved, a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee, was immediately removed from the exercise, Stoltenberg said.
It would be up to the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action, he said.
“Turkey is a valued NATO Ally, which makes important contributions to Allied security, Stoltenberg added.
During a meeting held in Canada's Halifax city, Stoltenberg said sorry to Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and also asked him to convey his apology to President Erdogan.
General Akar asked Stoltenberg not to stop the inquiry only with the two people directly involved and sought punishment for other officers who were responsible, keeping in mind the hierarchy in the military.
Norway also apologised
Norway's Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen also expressed "regret" over the incident.
He said the offending message had been published on a computer network used during the exercise.
"The message does not reflect Norway's views or policies and I apologise for the content of the message," he said.
"The Norwegian national was removed from the exercise by JWC as a consequence of the incident. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, and take the appropriate measures based on the conclusions," he said.
During the computer-assisted exercise, a Norwegian official created a dummy military chat account under the president’s name, and posted a fake chat showing Erdogan as collaborating with an enemy, a NATO official, who asked not to be named due to the nature of the incident, told Anadolu Agency.
Polish Major General Andrzej Reudowicz, the commander of the Joint Warfare Center (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway where the exercise took place, has also issued a letter of apology over the incidents, according to the anonymous NATO official.