In a tremendous upset, Turkey lost a contest in the United Nations General Assembly, exposing increasingly contentious frictions with some of its neighbors and world powers.
Trying to become a nonpermanent member of the Security Council, Turkey lost out to Spain and New Zealand in a contest for two available seats reserved for a voting bloc called the Western European and Others Group, which includes the United States.
In the past few days, according to several diplomatic sources, there was an intense campaign, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, against Turkey’s membership in the council. The two countries are angered by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which both are fighting at home.
On Wednesday night, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, hosted a posh party for diplomats at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, where many of the guests predicted an easy victory for Turkey. But some diplomats said after the Thursday vote they had detected an unmistakable movement away from the Turkish camp to the Spain.
Syria, as well as its ally Iran and several others, are also peeved by Erdoğan’s frequent calls to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad. Several Western countries are alarmed by recent reports of Turkish attacks on Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria. And Turkey’s traditional opponent, its neighbor Greece, is also said to have lobbied against its election to the U.N.’s most prestigious body.
“It’s surprising, because I was told just days ago that Turkey received letters of support from 160 countries,” said one diplomat after the secret ballot ended in Turkey’s failure to edge out Spain. The diplomat noted, however, that Spain received 154 letters of support from the 193 General Assembly members. “This isn’t the way this should be done,” said the diplomat, referring to the habit among member states of expressing support publicly while opposing membership in secret balloting.
After several rounds of voting, Turkey ended up receiving the support of only 60 General Assembly members, while Spain got 132 votes, more than enough to satisfy the necessary threshold of 128 supporters.
New Zealand got elected in an earlier round. Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela ran unopposed in their regional voting blocs.
The American U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, homed in on Venezuela after the vote, saying in a statement, “Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter, and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the Charter’s letter. The United States will continue to call upon the government of Venezuela to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of its people.”
The five newly elected members will replace Australia, Argentina, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda on January 1 and will serve on the council for two years. Power’s statement promises to create new tensions among council members, but perhaps not as tense had Turkey become a member.