Turkish presidential spokesperson calls for investigation of NATO incident
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Nov. 20 an incident during a recent NATO drill where the names of the Turkish Republic’s founder and current president were used in an “enemy chart” should be investigated carefully.
Speaking to France 24, Kalın discussed Turkey’s relations with NATO and the U.S., which strained following NATO’s military exercise and a lack of information on the whereabouts and condition of Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, respectively.
Referring to the drill incident in Norway, which led Turkey to withdraw its troops, Kalın said Turkey’s participation in NATO dates back more than 50 years, adding, “This is one incident, but of course we are a strong ally in NATO and we participated in many exercises.”
Turkey withdrew its troops from NATO’s Trident Javelin exercise in Norway on Nov. 17 after a civilian Norwegian official depicted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as an “enemy collaborator.”
A portrait of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was also shown in the “hostile leader list” during a computer-assisted exercise of the drill.
“Obviously, it is completely unacceptable to do this to any country, especially for our founding President Atatürk and our current president, and expect Turkey not to react to it. That’s not possible,” Kalın said.
“Of course, this incident has to be studied, investigated very, very carefully - who did it, who put those pictures in there, etcetera.”
He added that Turkey has received an apology, “which is fine, but one has to explain how within a system like NATO - a military alliance with such a strict disciplined system - such a thing can happen.”
Responding to a question on whether it was an accident or not, Kalın said, “Well I don’t know the details. We will see. We’ve relied on NATO’s explanations so far, and I think there will be an investigation, and we heard a couple of people have been fired. But we seek to know how such a thing can happen within NATO so such thing won’t happen again.”
Kalın also said Turkey is not considering severing ties with NATO.
On Turkey-U.S. relations, Kalın underscored two main issues Turkey is disturbed by: the U.S. support of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the extradition of U.S.-based Fethullah Gülen, accused of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt.
He accused the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) of “using the U.S. system to launch an attack against Turkey through the Zarrab case or Halkbank case, which is one of the public banks in Turkey.”
“Now, we have never asked for something that is outside the legal framework. We asked for his [Gülen’s] extradition to Turkey based on a treaty of extradition of criminals that the U.S. signed in the 1960s,” he said.
He stated that the U.S. did not provide any convincing explanations as well.
“We are asking for their extradition so they can be tried in Turkey,” he said.
He said this attitude is “having a negative impact on our bilateral relationship too...Because if you allow such a group of people in your country functioning against a key ally, how are we supposed to respond to that?”
He reiterated there were no ties between Erdoğan and Zarrab or related cases, calling it a “political case” which is damaging the reputation of the president.
“This whole thing is a very politically motivated case. We are depending on energy from outside. We had to do trade with Iran during the sanctions. We said we will have to try some other means to do it. Our banks were involved, our economy ministry was involved… Americans know all of this.”
Zarrab has been in jail in the U.S. pending trial. He was arrested last year on alleged fraud and Iran sanctions-related charges.
Referring to a PYD deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which allowed ISIL militants and their families to flee Raqqa in Syria, Kalın said it was a “terrible deal” and shows the fallacy of supporting one terrorist group against another.
He said Turkey now is “expecting the U.S. to disengage from the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK/PYD because the mission has been accomplished. And we will see how they [the U.S.] devises their plans now.”
“Now the question is this: They have said all along that the [PYD] is the most effective force against Daesh. Well, it is actually the other way around,” he added, using another acronym for ISIL.
He said if the U.S. provided that kind of support to any other group such as the Free Syria Army or Turkmen or other Arab groups, they would have been the most effective group against ISIL.