Turkey has withdrawn its troops from a NATO military drill in Norway on Friday when Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were reportedly depicted as “enemies”.
The Turkish President said that his name and the picture of Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were used in an “enemy chart”.
“There was an incident in Norway,” Erdogan told ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party members in 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 Gen. 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.”
In response, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg apologized for the incident.
“I have been informed about the offense caused in a recently concluded exercise at NATO’s Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway,” he said. “I apologize for the offense that has been caused.”
Turkey, which has been a NATO member since 1952, is considered a key ally of the West, particularly the United States.
Over the recent past there have been several incidents marking increased strained ties between NATO and Turkey especially Ankara’s decision to purchase a Russian S-400 air defense missile system.
NATO’s opposition to Ankara’s planned procurement of the Russian air defense system was indicated during summer when the US Congress rejected the sale of semi-automatic handguns to Turkish police. Berlin also responded Tuesday, putting on hold all arms exports to Turkey, citing a deterioration in Ankara’s human rights record.
Also, Turkey is particularly angry with the US armed YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces operations in syria. Ankara considers Kurdish YPG militia (or People’s Protection Units) as a branch of the outlawed terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (or PKK) that has been active in Turkey for decades.