Turkey’s campaign for UN Security Council membership

Turkey’s campaign for UN Security Council membership

If I was in the place of Spain and New Zealand; I would be rubbing my hands with glee, especially after hearing the United Nations calling on Turkey to stop blocking Twitter.

“We are concerned that the blocking of access to Twitter may be incompatible with Turkey’s international human rights obligations,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This call was issued to a country seeking to become a United Nations Security Council non-permanent member for the period of 2015-2016. You guessed it: Ankara is competing with Spain and New Zealand.

In 2008, Turkey was elected to be non-permanent member of the Security Council for the 2009-2010 period. Turkey competed in the Western European and others group with Austria and Iceland for two seats. Turkey received 151 votes, from 192 members of the General Assembly, Austria picked up 133 and Iceland won 87. Unfortunately, Turkey’s membership to the Security Council will be remembered for being one of only two countries, with Brazil, to have objected to additional sanctions on Iran that took place on June 2010. But that was after 2009, the year Turkish foreign policy started going berserk.

Turkey was the shining star until 2008, earning a long deserved seat in the Security Council. The 151 votes out of 192 showed there was not much doubt in the international community on Turkey’s well deserved success. While its economic performance impressed the world, Turkey also gave the image of a reformist country. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) succeeded in convincing the international community that it was committed to democratization; that it would fight against all kinds of restrictive mentalities, breaking taboos on issues such as the untouchable nature of the military or the Armenian or Kurdish questions. Turkey also appeared as an element of stability in its region, with its potential to project peace under the motto of zero problems with neighbors.

No need to say that unfortunately we are nowhere near the image the AKP projected in 2008. When the prime minister of a country says, “I don’t care what the international community will say,” and talks about “wiping out” Twitter, an act that puts you in the league of North Korea and Iran, that does not bode well for that country’s bid for Security Council membership.

There have been an increasing amount of eyebrows being raised in Europe about Turkey, while the AKP’s sectarian policies have tarnished the country’s popularity in the Arab world, which will complicate efforts to lobby Europeans and the Arabs.

And there is one other element that could strike a blow to Turkey’s campaign in especially faraway lands. There is no doubt the Gülen community’s network throughout the world has helped Turkey to reach out to countries in distant lands and contributed to its success in the last vote. As the alliance between the AKP and the Gülen community is broken, it will be difficult to count on Gülen’s network for the U.N. campaign.

Meanwhile, as the vote will take place this autumn, Turkey should start intensifying its campaign. Yet following Sunday’s municipal elections; the country is set for presidential elections and perhaps even for snap general elections that will obviously not contribute to Turkey’s international campaign.

When Turkey put forward its bid for 2014-2015 shortly after terminating its term in the Security Council, I had thought it was a bad idea. I felt it reflected a sense of hubris and greed.

As of today, we need to ask whether it will be worth spending tax payers’ money for a race it looks hard to win, unless there is a radical change in the AKP government’s domestic and international policies, which does not look likely to happen.