Turkey in the UN Security Council: Its Election and Performance

By Aral, Berdal | Insight Turkey, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Turkey in the UN Security Council: Its Election and Performance


Aral, Berdal, Insight Turkey


Turkey was elected to the provisional membership of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (hereinafter referred to as the 'SC' or 'Council') on October 17, 2008 by obtaining the Support of 151 states in the UN General Assembly, out of a total of 192 states. Alongside Austria, which received 133 votes, Turkey defeated Iceland (87 votes) in the race for the representation of Western Europe on the Council between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010. By all accounts, this was a great achievement for a state--Turkey--that had been longing for a non-permanent seat in the SC since 1961.

As is well known, the SC consists of 15 member states. (1) Five among them are permanent members (Permanent-5 or P-5), while the rest are provisional (rotating, non-permanent) members. A provisional member of the SC is elected by the UN General Assembly to serve for two years. Non-permanent members of the Council cannot immediately get re-elected. The Permanent-5 consist of the five major victorious powers in World War Two, the United States of America (the USA), the United Kingdom (the UK), France, Russia and China. The first three of the Permanent-5 visibly played a pioneering role in the establishment of the UN and the designation of its functions. Though, under international law, states enjoy sovereign equality with equal rights and duties, "some are more equal than the others" in the SC. The Permanent-5 has also been given the right to veto a draft resolution even if the rest of the Council concurs. In order for a decision to get through, nine members of the SC have to vote in favor of the motion, with no blocking veto.

The core competencies of the SC are as follows:

* to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;

* to call on UN members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;

* to take military action against an aggressor.

SC resolutions are binding, unless the adopted text explicitly "advises" or "recommends" a particular mode of action.

After this brief introduction to the Subject, it is timely to lay out the main questions which inform the major concerns of the present study: First, which strategies did Turkey pursue to get elected to the SC? Second, why did Turkey display Such enthusiasm for membership in the SC? Third, what are the advantages and possible risks of Turkish membership in the SC? Fourth, what is Turkey's position on major international issues with implications for international peace and security? Fifth, as seen through the eyes of those who advocate a more effective, egalitarian and transparent Council, what are the main weaknesses and problems associated with the SC? Fifth, what is the position of the current government on the major international issues that may be brought to the attention of the SC? Sixth, what are Turkey's behavioral options in the SC? Finally, what can be said about the policy choices and voting preferences which Turkey has thus far made in the SC?

Turkey's Election to the SC

The present Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) government braced itself for possible Turkish seat in the SC immediately after taking office. To achieve this goal, the government carefully set its eyes on a complex network of international actors ranging from states to international organizations with which to engage. This did not involve only persuasion, but also of the granting of economic rewards to an extensive list of the least-developed states from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. This ambitious diplomatic campaign on the diplomatic front could not possibly have been Successful without the meteoric rise in Turkey's international standing, prestige, and power of influence since the end of 2002. As part of Turkey's diplomatic endeavors, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and his Successor Ali Babacan held talks with their counterparts from well over 150 states between 2006 and 2008 as part of the Turkish diplomatic campaign.

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