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NATO sorry for targeting top Turks in exercise

November 17, 2017

Turkey's founding leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were both listed as enemy targets in a NATO joint military exercise. NATO has apologized for the gaffe and blamed it on an underling.

Backdropped by a poster of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, delivers a speech in Konya, central Turkey
Image: picture alliance/dpa/AP Images/K. Ozer

NATO apologized on Friday for naming enemy targets in a military computer training exercise after Turkey's beloved founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and its current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A "chart of enemies" depicted Ataturk and named Erdogan, the president told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara. Erdogan said he decided to withdraw all 40 of his troops involved in the exercise in protest.

NATO's website describes the Trident Javelin exercise in Stavanger, southern Norway, as a "computer assisted exercise without troops on the ground," meant to improve command structures for large operations. It was organized by the multi-national Joint Warfare Centre led by Major General Andrzej Reudowicz of Poland.

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"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," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, in a statement.

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

Stoltenberg blamed the incident on a civilian contractor seconded by Norway, saying it was up to Norway to discipline the offender.

Tensions between Oslo and Ankara flared in March, when Norway granted political asylum to five Turkish officers who had refused to return home after the failed July 2016 coup in Turkey.

Read more: Angela Merkel calls for reduced EU funds for Turkey

Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO and shares land borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, giving it great strategic importance for the military alliance. But Ankara has been drifting away from the alliance and the European Union, causing the relationship to become fractious.

aw/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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