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NATO apologises after Turkey pulls out of Norway drill over alleged incident

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a drill in Norway had used himself and Ataturk as 'targets'
A Turkish submarine cruises off the Aksaz naval base in Marmaris on 20 September 2017 during the Dynamic Monarch-17 NATO submarine escape and rescue exercise (AFP)

NATO has apologised after an alleged incident which prompted Turkey to pull out of a drill in Norway.

Turkey said images of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country's first leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were used in a military exercise.

Details have been hazy, but they have apparently been serious enough to prompt Turkey's top general, Hulusi Akar, to withdraw 40 troops from an operation.

In a televised speech, Erdogan said Akar and EU affairs minister Omer Celik had told him about the alleged incident and taken the decision to cancel.

"They said: 'This has happened... and we are going to take out our 40 soldiers.' And I said: 'Absolutely, don't hesitate, take them out right now,'" Erdogan said.

"It's not possible to have this kind of alliance," he added.

Erdogan said that the incident had made himself and Ataturk "targets" although he did not elaborate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the incident had made himself and Ataturk targets although he did not elaborate

Turkish media speculated that Erdogan was indicating that images of Ataturk and Erdogan had been used for target practice.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said that Erdogan and Ataturk had both been depicted as an “enemy collaborator” in one of the drills.

Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952, but tensions have been high in recent months over Erdogan's seemingly erratic foreign policy decisions, which have also seen Turkey pulled closer to Russia.

Western allies have been particularly troubled by a deal for Ankara to purchase an S-400 air defence system from Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said he had been informed of the incident and had launched an investigation.

"I have been informed about offence caused in a recently concluded exercise at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway," he said, in a statement. "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."

"The individual in question was immediately removed from the exercise by the Joint Warfare Centre, and an investigation is under way. 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. NATO has been in contact with the Norwegian authorities on this issue.

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

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