President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bashed NATO for a recent incident that depicted him and Turkey's founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as "enemies" during a military exercise in Norway, saying the main target of the incident is Turkey itself. Speaking at the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Provincial Congress in the northeastern city of Bayburt, Erdoğan said it is not a matter of a specific individual or a political party but rather a matter of targeting Turkey and the Turkish nation. "I'm hoping that the ones who have been happy until now over the incidents that are attacking us are finally realizing the real face of these attacks since now Atatürk is also being attacked alongside us," Erdoğan said.
The president also added that he has responded positively to the opposition leaders' statements over the issue.
Turkey withdrew its troops from a NATO military drill in Norway after Erdoğan said Friday that his name and the picture of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk were used in an "enemy chart."
Following the incident, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called President Erdoğan to apologize over the incident. According to presidential sources, Stoltenberg informed Erdoğan that the individual behind the incident was immediately removed from his post. The NATO chief also underlined that Turkey is an important NATO member and the alliance took necessary precautions to prevent such an incident from happening again.
Stoltenberg also told Erdoğan he hopes the scandal will not have a negative impact on relations between Turkey and NATO. Stoltenberg apologized to Turkey in a written statement, as well as to Turkish military chief Gen. Hulusi Akar during a face-to-face meeting in Canada.
Yet, despite the apology of Stoltenberg, NATO hesitated to release an official statement of apology, and overlooked the incident on its website.
Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Saturday that the "enemy chart" incident during a NATO drill in Norway cannot be just evaded with an apology. Speaking at an event in Ankara on Saturday, CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu said they cannot accept the "insult" on Turkish history and modern-day Turkey, adding that he expected a satisfactory statement from NATO officials to be made regarding the incident.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also released a statement on Friday regarding the issue. "The incident is regrettable, unethical and unacceptable. The criminal procedures against the perpetrators will be followed closely. Necessary steps are being taken," the statement said.
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