As Turkey prepares to take a seat at UN Security Council

As Turkey prepares to take a seat at UN Security Council

An important vote will take place on Oct. 16 at the United Nations General Assembly to elect five non-permanent members to the Security Council for the 2015-2016 term. Turkey, Spain and New Zealand are competing for the two available seats reserved for Western Europe.

To win this valuable seat, the contender needs to secure the support of at least a two thirds majority of 192 votes, i.e. 129 countries. In his address to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group on Oct. 14, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu expressed his confidence that Turkey would gain the seat in light of information he received from Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who will continue to lobby in New York until the very last moment.

Recalling that Turkey had occupied the same seat for the 2009-2010 term, Davutoğlu said it would be a historic victory for Turkey if it could re-take the seat only five years after its previous term. “God willing, we will be elected for the non-permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council. If we are elected – and we believe it’s a great probability - we will be the first country in the world to be elected after only five years. This shows Turkey’s importance. We will continue to represent Turkey in every corner of the world as the strongest guarantor of international peace, law and rights,” he told his lawmakers.

There are also reports that Davutoğlu is planning to rush to New York on Oct. 16, the eve of the vote, if he gets a clear sign from Çavuşoğlu about an impending Turkish victory. 

Foreign Ministry officials believe Turkey will get the support of at least 140 countries, but they are also aware that actually received votes at U.N. elections are usually around 20 percent less than expressed support. The strongest advocates of Turkish non-permanent membership are African countries, as well as countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the second largest international organization after the U.N.

Spain, with ambitions to salvage the international reputation it lost due to its economic crisis, is pushing hard for the seat, especially in the European continent and in the Spanish-speaking world. New Zealand, the smallest country of the three competitors, is also lobbying intensely for the seat.

A Turkish seat at the U.N. Security Council would be an important tool for Turkey to draw the attention of the international community to the Middle East in a more effective way, especially as a country currently hosting more than one-and-half millions Syrians in its territory. But given the fact that unrest and instability in the Middle East will continue for many years, Turkey could also efficiently use its seat for its own national interests. 

However, its unwillingness to take an active part in the fight against world’s bloodiest terror organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), could be seen as an important disadvantage. The Western permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - namely the United States, the United Kingdom and France - have recently been more loudly expressing their discontent with Turkish reluctance. Indeed, it’s clear that Turkey is no longer the same Turkey of the 1990s and it takes its own decisions without accepting foreign imposition; as Prime Minister Davutoğlu puts it, “Ankara’s decisions are taken in Ankara.” One of the most significant examples of this came in early 2010, when Turkey – during its previous temporary membership - vetoed a resolution introduced by the U.S. and other strongholds of the U.N. Security Council over the Iranian nuclear program.

The question is now whether the United States and other Security Council members would like to observe another term of Turkish non-permanent membership, given the current circumstances in the Middle East. We’ll have the answer in two days.