Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday warned NATO against sheltering “terrorist” soldiers after Turkish officers in the alliance’s command reportedly sought asylum after a failed putsch.
“How can a terrorist, a terrorist soldier, a soldier who has been involved in plotting a coup, be employed in NATO?” Erdogan told journalists on a plane from Uzbekistan, the Milliyet newspaper reported.
“They cannot do such a thing,” he said.
On Friday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said a number of Turkish officers serving in NATO command positions had requested asylum following the botched coup on July 15.
Neither Stoltenberg nor Erdogan provided a number, although Erdogan said it was not high.
Erdogan said his government demanded that soldiers who asked for asylum be extradited and warned the alliance against providing them with a haven.
“NATO cannot entertain accepting asylum requests of this kind. Those in question are accused of terror,” he said.
Stoltenberg said the NATO countries concerned would make their own asylum decisions rather than the alliance headquarters in Brussels.
“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, Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg is due to meet Monday with Erdogan on the asidelines of a NATO meeting in Istanbul.
Erdogan has accused western powers of failure to show solidarity in the aftermath of the coup bid, which he blames on rogue elements in the army led by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
He has angrily batted away criticism of his crackdown against alleged plotters.
Within the military, 9,300 army personnel have been arrested, including 118 generals and admirals, while thousands more have been discharged dishonorably or suspended.