NATO sorry after Erdogan pulls troops over Norway 'insult'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses to his ruling party's provincial leaders in Ankara on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Presidential Press Service, pool photo via AP)
Updated 17 November 2017
0

NATO sorry after Erdogan pulls troops over Norway 'insult'

ISTANBUL: NATO apologized to Turkey on Friday after Ankara pulled its troops from a military exercise in Norway to protest incidents deemed insulting to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country’s modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, himself Norwegian, moved quickly to say sorry after an angry intervention by Erdogan on an episode that risked creating further strife between Turkey and its allies.
The incidents took place during NATO’s “Trident Javelin” exercise in the southern Norwegian city of Stavanger aimed at increasing coordination between the allies at headquarters level, which wound up Friday.
Erdogan said that Ankara had withdrawn its 40 troops from the exercise in protest, adding: “It’s not possible to have this kind of alliance.”
Norway’s Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, speaking to AFP, also expressed “regret” over the incident.
NATO gave no details on the nature of the incident, saying only that “offense had been caused.”
But Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said that an image of Ataturk had been used to portray an enemy protagonist in a scenario.
In a second incident a chat account was opened under Erdogan’s name during a virtual scenario as a collaborator with a “leader of an enemy state.”
Without going into detail, Erdogan said an image of Ataturk and his own name were used “and these were the targets.”
He said Turkey’s top general Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik — who were on their way to a NATO conference in Halifax, Canada — had informed him of the incident.
“They said ‘this has happened... and we are going to take out our 40 soldiers’,” Erdogan said while speaking in front of giant pictures of himself and Ataturk.
“And I said ‘Absolutely, don’t hesitate, take them out right now’.”
Ataturk founded modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 and is widely credited with salvaging a functioning Turkish state in the 1919-1923 War of Independence.
Insulting his memory is a criminal offense in Turkey that is punishable by jail.
While critics accuse Erdogan of tainting the secular vision of Ataturk, the president has in recent months made increasingly clear his admiration for Turkey’s modern founder.
On the November 10 anniversary of Ataturk’s death in 1938, Erdogan eulogized Turkey’s first president, saying he should be remembered with “grace and gratitude.”
Turkey, which became a member of NATO in 1952, is a key member of the alliance but tensions have grown in recent months over its crackdown after a failed coup and Ankara’s increasingly close alliance with Russia.
Its Western allies have been particularly troubled by a deal for Ankara to purchase an S-400 air defense system from Russia and the cooperation between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran on the Syria crisis.
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, in his apology emphasized the importance of Turkey within the alliance.
“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,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
“Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to allied security.”
The Trident Javelin exercise in Stavanger is described on a NATO website as a “computer assisted exercise without troops on the ground,” aimed at improving command structures for major operations.
Stoltenberg also said the individual responsible for the incident was not a NATO staff member.
“He was a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee,” Stoltenberg said.
“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.”
Anadolu said the “technician” who made the error was not aware that the image used had showed Ataturk and had apologized.


Maldives’ top court dismisses outgoing president’s petition

Updated 40 min 51 sec ago
0

Maldives’ top court dismisses outgoing president’s petition

MALE, Maldives: The Maldives’ top court on Sunday dismissed the outgoing president’s petition seeking an annulment of last month’s presidential election result.
The five-member Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the election was conducted within the law. No other details were immediately known.
The Election Commission had declared opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih the winner of the Sept. 23 election against President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Yameen’s party challenged the result, alleging vote rigging, fraud and corruption in the election process.
Four of the five members of the Election Commission fled after the election, citing intimidation by Yameen’s supporters.
President-elect Solih’s spokeswoman, Mariya Didi, said “the case was based on conjecture and conspiracy theory.”
“We are pleased that the court ruled unanimously to uphold the will of the people. There is zero evidence that the election was fixed,” Didi said in a tweet.
President Yameen “should do the honorable thing: accept defeat & ensure a smooth transfer of power,” she said.
The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxury resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. Yameen is accused of rolling back many of the democratic gains.
Solih was chosen as the Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential candidate at a party congress in July after exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed abandoned plans to run because of legal obstacles.
Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, making him ineligible to contest the election. The verdict was widely criticized as politically motivated.
The Supreme Court earlier this year ordered Nasheed’s release and retrial, but the government refused to implement the ruling.
Yameen had expected to contest the election virtually unopposed, with all of his potential opponents either in jail or forced into exile. Following the Supreme Court order to release and retry Nasheed, the government arrested the chief justice and another judge. The remaining three Supreme Court justices then reversed the order.
In the Maldives’ first multiparty election in 2008, Nasheed defeated 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in 2012 amid public protests over his order to the military to detain a sitting judge. He lost the 2013 election to Gayoom’s half brother, Yameen, who has reversed many of the country’s democratic gains.
Gayoom is now an ally of the pro-Nasheed coalition and was jailed by his half brother.
Yameen’s administration has also jailed his former vice president, two defense ministers, the chief justice and a Supreme Court judge, as well as many other politicians and officials.