Turkey’s stance same despite Security Council elections

Published 20.10.2014 20:04

Turkey filed an application to become the holder of one of the non-permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council (UNSC). Before 2002, Turkey already had the opportunity to hold a seat but it was in 1961, in one of the worst periods of the Cold War, at a time when a military coup, the first in the Turkish republic's history, was taking place. There is no remembrance of Turkey's performance at that time, which is not very surprising.

The second attempt took place in 2008, when the motivation of Turkey was tangible in the field of foreign affairs, at the peak of the "zero problems" policy, when said policy delivered good results. Just for the sake of remembering the situation back in 2007, Turkey was acting as a moderator and go-between for the indirect talks between Israel and Syria. A huge project of establishing a free-trade area among Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey was on its way - the agreement was signed and if the war did not start, the whole project would have taken place in 2011.

A very courageous opening was made to Armenia, for the first time since the independence of the latter. Relations with the EU, despite experiencing bottlenecks, were on the highest level of accession negotiations. Last but certainly not least, Turkey had, for a first time in its political history, a large network of humanitarian aid on the African continent. The memorable trip of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with his family to a very hazardous Mogadishu airport created a deep positive influence on the international media.

When Turkey wanted a non-permanent seat on the UNSC back in 2008, almost all the conditions were optimal. Turkey largely won the elections by a very comfortable margin in the first round. It secured a seat together with Brazil for the 2009 to 2011 term. Now the system of the UNSC dates back to 1945 and was devised to give permanent seats to the five victorious nations of World War II. The U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China possess a veto right, which places them above the common mortals. President Erdoğan has voiced more than once that "the world is greater than five," which means that the system is on the verge of becoming obsolete.

Since 2011, Turkey's image, due mainly to the large scale international crisis in the region has been tarnished. Starting with the violence in Gaza and the Mavi Marmara disaster, relations with Israel have been consistently bad. The Arab awakening and the counter-revolutionary wave that came to destroy it have deeply affected Turkey's international stance, creating new foes like Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Bashar Assad. The parallel organization plots and the struggle openly waged against the government by it have increased very heavy international propaganda against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. All these are true, but it is also true that Turkey has tried, on its own initiative and backed by Brazil, to develop a solution to the Iranian nuclear research crisis while holding a seat on the UNSC. This was not to the liking of the U.S., and the attempt was sabotaged by Iran itself. Recently, the situation in northern Syria with Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants unleashed an unseen wave of critics, mostly subjective, but no day passed for a month without the majority of international news channels incriminating Turkey for not entering the war against ISIS.

Perhaps, the Turkish government and foreign policy did not merit to be so severely criticized, and obviously it is not Turkey that holds the responsibility of the terrible situation in the Middle East. But its image has been severely frayed despite the immense humanitarian effort made. Why would Turkey want a second term as a non-permanent member again within a very small span of time with 187 member states competing for 10 seats? Maybe a "new success story" was sought, however, the attempt failed and Spain, which does not have a structured external policy, as written in an editorial in Spain's El PaÌs daily last week, was preferred to Turkey. Now it is time to formulate polite regrets underlining the need to keep up with principles rather than cozy arrangements and somehow praise a virtuous loneliness. This is not a good idea to put forward for Turkey's isolation, for the mere reason that Turkey stems its power not from its isolation but from the variety of strong institutional or historic ties with a great number of countries. A wonderful or necessary isolation could have worked for the British Empire in the 19th century or the young Soviet Union before World War II, but it definitely is not option for Turkey, and trying to get a new non-permanent seat on the UNSC was not a good idea.

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