Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned NATO against sheltering “terrorist” soldiers after Turkish officers in the military alliance’s command reportedly sought asylum in the wake of the abortive mid-July coup.
“How can a terrorist, a terrorist soldier, a soldier who has been involved in plotting a coup, be employed in NATO?” Erdogan asked journalists on a plane taking off from Uzbekistan, adding, “They cannot do such a thing.”
Erdogan warned NATO against providing them with a haven. “NATO cannot entertain accepting asylum requests of this kind. Those in question are accused of terror.”
The Erdogan administration has called for the extradition of the soldiers who have asked for asylum.
On November 18, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said a number of Turkish officers serving in NATO command positions had requested asylum following the botched coup of July 15.
“We would be wrong if we started to go into that kind of legal issue; that’s for the judicial system” of the countries concerned, the NATO chief said.
Stoltenberg is due to meet with Erdogan on Monday on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Istanbul.
President Erdogan has ordered authorities to eradicate all elements involved in the coup attempt.
Erdogan claims that US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the coup. Gulen has denied any role in the coup attempt. He says Erdogan orchestrated the coup as a pretext to purge all his opponents and pave the way for his undisputed leadership.
President Erdogan has accused Western powers of failure to show solidarity in the aftermath of the coup attempt.
Turkey’s repressive measures against journalists following the coup have been widely condemned by European officials and various rights groups.
Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of a massive crackdown by the government in Ankara.