The 40 Turkish soldiers participating in a NATO drill in Norway were withdrawn after authorities were notified that Turkey's founder and first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were both depicted as "enemies." In an address to provincial chairmen of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), President Erdoğan said a portrait of Atatürk and his name were depicted as enemies in Norway. "I was notified by my Chief of General Staff [Gen. Hulusi Akar] and EU Affairs Minister [Ömer Çelik], who were on their way to Canada, about what was happening. They said they had decided to withdraw the soldiers. I told them not to waste a single minute," he said before criticizing the alliance and the allies. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement about "the incident at NATO's Joint Warfare Centre in Norway." The statement 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. 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."
According to Anadolu Agency (AA), there were two incidents that occurred during the NATO drill between Nov. 8 and Nov. 17. In the first war simulation, a booklet containing the biographies of enemy leaders, was prepared. However, a technician who was part of the team preparing the booklet used a photo of a statue of Atatürk. The technician later said he had no idea who the statue was. The Turkish team secured the removal of the photo.
The second incident occurred when a civilian contractor of the Norwegian military opened an account under the name "Recep Tayyip Erdoğan" in a virtual chat room used as part of the simulation. With the account, the contractor gave the impression that Erdoğan had close relationship with leaders of enemy countries. AA said the individual in question was fired, but Stoltenberg's statement indicates that the person is suspended and under investigation.
Joint Warfare Centre Commander Andrzej Reudowicz also released a statement of apology, as did NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller.