Stavanger incident put a strain on relations between Turkey and NATO

Stavanger incident put a strain on relations between Turkey and NATO

The recent scandal during a NATO drill in Norway was an attack targeting “Turkey and the Turkish nation,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Nov. 19, while acknowledging support from the opposition over the incident. As Hürriyet Daily News writes in an article "Turkey, not just me, being targeted: Erdoğan", Turkey withdrew from the Trident Javelin exercise at The Joint Warfare Centre after a civilian Norwegian official depicted Erdoğan as an “enemy collaborator” during a bloc exercise. A portrait of the Republic of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was also shown on a “hostile leader list” during a computer-assisted exercise.

“They [NATO] carried out a scandal. They know that they cannot stop our country, which is why they are putting us on a target board. I hope that those who welcomed attacks against us before now understand the real face of the matter, as Atatürk was also included,” Erdoğan told a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial congress in the eastern province of Bayburt. “The issue is not a personal or party issue. The target is Turkey and the Turkish nation,” he claimed, adding that the country was “ready for further major tests in the future". “Today there is a Turkey that cannot be compared with 15 years ago in every field - from the economy to the defense industry and from trade to diplomacy. There is now a Turkey that produces its own weapons and tanks. There is a country which is maintaining its fight against terror with its own unmanned aerial vehicles. There is a Turkey that is now preparing to produce its own indigenous car,” Erdoğan said.

His remarks came after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg once again apologized to him over the incident on the phone late on Nov. 18. In the phone call, Stoltenberg informed Erdoğan that an inquiry had been initiated by the commanding officer and the contracted Norwegian technician involved in the incident was terminated immediately, according to a presidential source. The NATO chief also stressed that Turkey is an important ally for NATO and that he would take all necessary precautions to avoid a repeat of such an incident, hoping the scandal would not adversely affect relations between NATO and Turkey, the source said. Stoltenberg and Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen both issued swift apologies to Turkey over the incident on Nov. 17.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu also said his party cannot accept the “insult” against Turkey’s history and today’s Turkey. “It is not a topic that can be avoided with an ordinary ‘we apologize’ thing,” Kılıçdaroğlu said at an event in Ankara on Nov. 18. “Nobody can insult Turkey’s [current] executives or its history. We strongly condemn this,” he added.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on Nov. 18 also blasted the incident in Norway as “a disgrace that cannot be fixed or compensated". “Apology! What apology! Opening a debate or blaming the first president of the Republic of Turkey as well as the current president with psychological warfare tactics is evidence of open enmity,” Bahçeli said in his Twitter account. “It is necessary for Turkey to question NATO. What does NATO want from Turkey? What is it waiting for? What does it want to achieve?” Bahçeli said. Turkey has now reached a point of “all or nothing” with the alliance, he added. “We were here back when there was no NATO. If we cannot stay in this structure it would not be the end of the world,” the MHP leader said.

Turkey has the second-largest army in the alliance and borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The Joint Warfare Centre is a multinational NATO unit based in Stavanger, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Oslo. It is currently led by Maj. Gen. Andrzej Reudowicz of Poland. According to its website, it has a staff of 250 made up of civilians from 11 NATO member states, including Turkey. In March, the Norwegian government angered Ankara by granting political asylum to five Turkish officers based in Norway who had refused to return home after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

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