NATO takes disciplinary action over Turkey 'enemy' insult

NATO takes disciplinary action over Turkey 'enemy' insult
2 min read
19 November, 2017
NATO's took 'disciplinary action' against an individual over an incident deemed offensive to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

A NATO military exercise allegedly included Ataturk and Erdogan as targets [Getty]

NATO took "disciplinary action" against an individual after an incident led to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk portrayed as "enemies", the alliance's secretary general has said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg "reiterated his apology for the incidents" and said "that disciplinary action has been taken against the individual in question, and that procedures are being put in place to prevent any such incident in the future", according to an alliance official.

The incident took place during a NATO military exercise in the southern Norwegian city of Stavanger and resulted in Ankara withdrawing its 40 troops last week.

In one incident an image of a statue of Ataturk had been used to portray an enemy protagonist in a scenario at the exercise, according to Turkey's foreign ministry.

In a second incident, a chat account was opened under Erdogan's name during a virtual scenario as a collaborator with a "leader of an enemy state".

Stoltenberg had already apologised to Turkey on Friday, which has NATO's second-largest army after that of the United States, after an angry response from Erdogan that risked deepening the rift between Ankara and its allies.

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, in his apology emphasised the importance of Turkey within the alliance.

"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," Stoltenberg said in a statement.

"Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to allied security." 

On Saturday, Stoltenberg told Erdogan that he blamed "the actions on an individual" which do not reflect the views of NATO, adding that the person concerned was hired by the Norwegian army, not from within the organisation.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 and is widely credited with salvaging a functioning Turkish state in the 1919-1923 War of Independence.

Insulting his memory is a criminal offence in Turkey that is punishable by jail.

While critics accuse Erdogan of tainting the secular vision of Ataturk, the president has in recent months made increasingly clear his admiration for Turkey's modern founder.

On the 10 November anniversary of Ataturk's death in 1938, Erdogan eulogised Turkey's first president, saying he should be remembered with "grace and gratitude". 

Turkey has been a key NATO member since 1952, but tensions have grown in recent months over its crackdown after a failed coup and Ankara's increasingly close alliance with Russia.