By Serife Cetin and Ilker Girit
NATO’s chief on Friday apologized to Turkey after a civilian Norwegian official depicted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an "enemy collaborator" during a bloc exercise in Norway.
Turkey has withdrawn from the Trident Javelin exercise, Erdogan also announced Friday, citing a separate incident in the drill showing Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as a "hostile” leader and saying, “There can be no alliance like that”.
In a written statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: "I apologize 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’s statement said that 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," he also said.
Stoltenberg added that Turkey is a "valued NATO Ally, which makes important contributions to Allied security."
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.
Later on Friday, the NATO chief also apologized to Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, in a face-to-face meeting at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, according to a source from the Turkish General Staff.
The meeting was held at the request of Stoltenberg, who apologized on behalf of NATO for the incident during the exercise, the source added.
Ataturk shown as ‘hostile leader’
In an earlier separate incident, a technical staffer for the same exercise used a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, in the “Hostile Leaders Biographies” section of the computerized exercise.
Concerning the incident, the staffer claimed that he had not known that the picture showed Ataturk, and apologized.
Polish Maj. Gen. 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.
Speaking to fellow members of Turkey’s ruling party Friday, Erdogan said, "They used an enemy chart in Norway. In that chart, there was my name and Ataturk's picture."
The president said he had been informed about the incidents by Gen. Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik.
"They told me that they are withdrawing our 40 soldiers from” the exercise, Erdogan said.
"I told them to do that immediately."Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.