Turkey has removed Gülenists from NATO posts: NATO Assistant Secretary General
İpek ÖZBEY – ISTANBUL
Turkey has called back suspected members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) inside NATO, the Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy of the alliance, Ambassador Tacan İldem has stated.
"Once Turkey notified the NATO authorities about those officers at NATO posts who were suspected of their connection to FETÖ and informed them that they were not to hold their posts anymore, their affiliation to NATO bodies was terminated. They were officers appointed to NATO posts by Turkey,” İldem told daily Hürriyet on Nov. 25.
Separately, the recent Nov. 8 to Nov. 17 NATO drill in NATO’s Joint Warfare Center in Norway sparked controversy when images of Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were depicted as enemies of the alliance, prompting Turkey to withdraw its troops.
As Ankara condemned the incident, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg apologized to Turkey over the incident.
On Nov. 22, Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Çavuşoğlu claimed a FETÖ member was behind the controversy.
"We should also value the statements and apology of the Secretary General who is at the helm of NATO. It is not ordinary or easy for a Secretary General to apologize and we should appreciate that. NATO authorities, in particular, the Secretary General pays utmost attention to this issue and it is important to recognize that," İldem said.
"NATO Military Authorities are investigating the details of what happened. Furthermore,what measures need to be taken in order to prevent similar incidents happen again" said İldem.
İldem said reactions to the issue were “normal,” adding that discussions on Turkey’s NATO membership “should be carried out with concrete knowledge and objective data.”
“Lack of knowledge delivers the wrong outcome,” he said.
“Although the issue has been well discussed by the Turkish public, sometimes discussions were carried out as if Turkey were not a NATO member. But Turkey is a respectable, valuable, loyal member of this organization, which makes decision by consensus, and provides equal rights,” he added.
"Asylum applications are made to individual states. These applications are evaluated by each country within the framework of their legislation and concluded accordingly. NATO does not have any jurisdiction over this issue which lies under the competence of each sovereign country."
Turkey’s relation with Russia and Iran
As Erdoğan meets his Russian and Iranian counterparts in an effort to find solution to war-torn Syria, İldem countered speculation that Turkey is drifting away from its Western military alliance. “Turkey is in a dialogue with its two neighbors to tackle problems that are directly related to its security,” he said.
As a NATO ally, Turkey’s recent purchase of the S-400 missile system from non-NATO country Russia has also called into the question Turkey’s relation with the military alliance, not least because the system is incompatible with NATO systems.
“From NATO’s viewpoint, Turkey engaging with Russia at a political level is not a cause for concern,” he said.
He also mentioned Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in 2015, which opened a substantial rift between the two countries, and in the wake of which NATO’s Secretary General Stoltenberg called for “dialogue between the two countries.”
He added that NATO has enhanced its defense and deterrence systems “against the new threat in the East,” stating that Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 “has created a new security environment in which international law is violated.”
“On the other hand, political dialogue with Russia has been conserved within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council,” he said.
“Naturally this dialogue remains ongoing after the suspensions of the previous practical cooperation,” he said.