‘Enemy’ Turkey spurns by Nato exercise
Nato’s secretary general has apologised to Turkey after a civilian contractor chose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an “enemy collaborator” during a military exercise in Norway.
Turkey has the alliance’s second largest military but might be heading for the exit following repeated criticism of Ankara’s human rights record.
It has pursued closer relations with Russia, with which it has also co-operated on Syrian air strikes.
Ankara recently acted against the advice of Nato by announcing it was spending US$2.5 billion on a missile defence system from Russia, incompatible with hardware from the other 28 members of the military alliance.
Erdogan said Turkey was withdrawing from the Trident Javelin drills, also referring to another incident on the same exercise where modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was depicted as “hostile”.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said: “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.”
Turkey presents Nato with a major dilemma because of its vital role as a bulwark against Islamist extremism and its borders with Iraq, Syria and Iran.
State-controlled Turkish broadcaster NTV reported that the Norwegian employee responsible was of Turkish descent.
The person responsible was reportedly removed from the exercise and an inquiry was ordered.
The joint warfare centre is a multinational Nato base in Stavanger, 300km southwest of Oslo. Its website says it has a staff of 250 civilians from 11 Nato members, including Turkey.
Norway’s Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen apologised, blaming a single, independent contractor.
He said the messages had been sent on the private computer network used in the exercise “and in no way” reflected Norwegian views.
It is claimed that the Norwegian employee created a fake military chat account and named it “Erdogan”, after a supposed collaborator sending anti-Nato messages.
In another incident, a photo of Ataturk was placed in the “hostile leaders’ biographies” section of the exercise.
Erdogan claimed that Ataturk’s picture and his own name were featured on an “enemy chart” during the exercise.
He immediately ordered the withdrawal of Turkey’s 40 troops from the exercise. Turkey joined Nato more than 65 years ago.
Norway angered Turkey by granting political asylum to five Turkish officers based in Norway who had refused to return home after the botched July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey. The five officers said that they feared being arrested and tortured as Erdogan purged the military.
Norway is popular as a Nato training destination. Picture credit: Wikimedia