(MEE) —NATO has apologised after an incident which prompted Turkey to pull out of a NATO drill in Norway.
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Turkey pulled out of the drill after the latter allegedly used images of current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in a military exercise.
Details on the actual offense caused have been hazy, but they have apparently been serious enough to prompt Turkey’s top general Hulusi Akar to withdraw 40 troops from an operation.
In a televised speech, Erdogan said that Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik had told him about the incident and taken the decision to cancel.
“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 added.
Erdogan said that the incident had made himself and Ataturk “targets” although he did not elaborate.
Local Turkish media speculated that Erdogan was indicating that images of Ataturk and Erdogan had been used for target practice in the exercise.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said that Erdogan and Ataturk had both been depicted as an “enemy collaborator” in one of the drills.
Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952, but tensions have been high in recent months over Erdogan’s seemingly erratic foreign policy decisions, which have also seen Turkey pulled closer to Russia.
Western allies have been particularly troubled by a deal for Ankara to purchase an S-400 air defence system from Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said he was aware of the incident and had removed the person responsible.
“I have been informed about offence caused in a recently concluded exercise at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway,” he said, in a statement. “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.”
“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.
“Turkey is a valued NATO Ally, which makes important contributions to Allied security.”
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