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
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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Erdogan said that Ankara had withdrawn its 40 troops from the exercise in protest, adding: “It’s not possible to have this kind of alliance.”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.


Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

Updated 7 min 15 sec ago
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Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

  • Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook
  • Piracy and armed robbery against ships remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost at sea each year

KUALA LUMPUR: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation when they met for the first time in Putrajaya on Monday.

The meeting took place at the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office, where both strongmen “renewed and reaffirmed the long-standing brotherhood and friendship between the Philippines and Malaysia.”

“President Duterte likewise renewed the commitment to further strengthen defense and security cooperation at the bilateral and regional level,” according to a statement from Duterte’s office.

The two neighbors have enjoyed a good relationship despite the change of government in Malaysia, as the over-60-year rule by the National Front coalition ended abruptly during Malaysia’s elections on May 9.

Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally, although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook since he was put in power for the second time in May.

The newly formed government led by the world’s oldest leader, Mahathir Mohamad, has vowed to restore the “rule of law” in Malaysia.

Duterte pointed out in his statement “the need to address terrorism and violent extremism in the region, as well as transnational crime such as piracy and armed robbery at sea and the illegal drug trade.”

Piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost at sea each year.

Southeast Asia has become a hotbed for Daesh-inspired terrorist activities and threats, and Duterte and Mahathir reaffirmed the need to boost the security and defense ties of both nations in the Southeast Asia region.

Malaysia’s state of Sabah is facing kidnapping threats from the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

In 2017, a large-scale kidnapping plan in Sabah and Central Philippines was uncovered by military intelligence.

The same year, Marawi was under siege from Daesh-inspired militants. The Philippines declared Marawi “liberated” from terrorism. The aftermath cost 1,000 lives with more than 350,000 people in the city displaced.

Meanwhile, Malaysia played an important role when it became the third-party broker of a long-awaited peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.

“President Duterte expressed appreciation for Malaysia’s sustained support for the quest for the just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao,” his official statement said.

Both leaders stressed the need toward “working closely together bilaterally and at ASEAN” in a region of more than 500 million where “greater stability and security in the region” is of the utmost importance.

The two countries are quietly in a land-lock over an 1878 land lease agreement on Sabah since the Federation of Malaysia was officially formed in 1963. Nevertheless, the Philippines’ long-standing claims over Sabah were off the plate during the bilateral discussion between Duterte and Mahathir.

On Sunday night before the meeting, both strongmen enjoyed watching the fight between Philippines’ world-renowned boxer Manny Pacquiao and Argentina’s fighter Lucas Matthysse.