Turkey’s Erdoğan withdraws Turkish troops from NATO drill in Norway

Turkey has withdrawn its troops from a NATO military drill in Norway after Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his name and the picture of Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk were used in an “enemy chart.”

“There was an incident in Norway. They put up something like an ‘enemies table’ and it included Atatürk’s name and my name,” Erdoğan said on Friday in his address to a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting in Ankara.

Erdoğan said he was informed about the issue by Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik.

“When we heard of this, our chief of general staff and EU minister were on their way to Canada. It was a NATO drill, we had 40 soldiers there. We decided to withdraw those troops and they started the necessary process. We said: ‘Withdraw the troops even if those names are taken out.’ Such things have happened from time to time in different places. Unfortunately, we have such people among us too,” Erdoğan added.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has issued a letter of apology over an incident at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Norway, which prompted Turkey to withdraw its troops from a military drill.

“I have been informed about offence caused in a recently concluded exercise at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway. I apologise for the offense that has been caused. The incidents were the result of an individual’s actions and do not reflect the views of NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

“The individual in question was immediately removed from the exercise by the Joint Warfare Centre, and an investigation is underway. He was a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee. It will be for the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action. NATO has been in contact with the Norwegian authorities on this issue,” he said.

NATO has fired a military officer who used pictures of Atatürk and Erdoğan in an “enemy chart” during a drill in Norway, private broadcaster NTV reported on Friday, citing NATO itself.

Meanwhile, a multinational NATO naval exercise hosted by Turkey ended Thursday in the country’s southwest.  The 10-day ‘East Mediterranean 2017’ exercise was hosted by Turkey at Aksaz Naval Base on the coast of Marmaris to improve teamwork at sea between the navies of the US, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Britain.

More than 20 warships as well as several frigates and submarines, planes and helicopters were involved in addition to over 3,000 military personnel. It was the 20th such drill between the NATO allies, which first saw this year comprehensive training on disaster and emergency management. The training included air and sea defense operations, planning in crisis management and cooperation among teams.

Also on Thursday, Deputy Under Secretary of the United States (US) Air Force Heidi H. Grant has said that in case of Turkey purchases S-400 air defense system from Russia, its access to NATO technology will be restricted. Grant noted that they will not allow the S-400 defense system to be integrated with NATO technology. According to a report by Defence News, purchase of the S-400s may also jeopardize F-35 sales to Turkey.

Turkey earlier announced that Russian and Turkey agreed on the purchase of S-400. “If Turkey purchases S-400s, its access to NATO technology will be restricted. It’s a significant concern, not only to the United States, because we need to protect this high end technology, fifth-generation technology but for all of our partners and allies that have already purchased the F-35,” Grant said.

Detailing the possible effect of S-400 purchase, Grant said that problems might occur in the delivery of F-35 to Turkey in 2018.

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