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After Turkey Loses for UNSC Seat, Ban Meeting, Grumbles of UNfree Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 16, more here -- Two hours after Turkey got only 60 votes, compared to Spain's 132, and lost the UN Security Council its foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has been in New York lobbying for in last week, Cavusoglu went forward and met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  The photo-op was scheduled on the eve of the vote, and some thought Cavusoglu would cancel it after the loss. But a dozen photographers, at least a third of them Turkish state media, assembled to be screened before escort up to Ban's 38th floor office.

  On the way up a Turkish non-state media complained that Mevlut Cavusoglu did not take any questions during his week in New York, "only AA and TRT," state media. Disfavored Turkish media told the Free UN Coalition for Access they were not permitted to cover Turkey's Waldorf Astoria hotel reception the night before the vote.

  After some standing around in Ban's conference room -- Ban's chief of Political Affairs, former US official Jeffrey Feltman, arrived first -- Mevlut Cavusoglu came in, with Ambassador Halit Cevik and an entourage. Video here.

 After the hand-shake with Ban, a book was signed and pleasantries exchanged; then the press was told to leave. Would there be a read-out? Would it mention Syria?

  Earlier in the day as the UN General Assembly Hall filled for the annual election of UN Security Council members, the largest entourage passing the GA stakeout was that of Turkey, photo here, for its face-off with Spain and New Zealand for two seats.

  But when the voting was over, in the third round, Turkey got only 60 votes, bested by Spain with 132. In the first round New Zealand won a seat with 145, joining Angola with 190, Malaysia with 187 and Venezuela with 181 and eight abstaining - including the US?

  In the middle of all this voting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon insisted on holding a "travelogue" stakeout, as one diplomat called it, about his trip to Israel and Palestine. 

  After receiving numerous complaints from diplomats, Inner City Press ran and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric if Ban didn't agree that the General Assembly is the highest organ of the UN, with all 193 member states represented - and all 193 present on October 16 for voting.

  Dujarric replied that this was the only time that Ban could speak. Really? Inner City Press put the same question to the spokesman for General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, Jean Victor Nkolo, who said diplomatically that the vote took place in the GA Hall, presided over by the PGA.

  Afterward diplomats told Inner City Press that Turkey's policies, most recently on Kobane, hurt it, that even some Arab League states that "had" to vote for Turkey told their Asian colleagues not to. One diplomat asked, perhaps, if Turkey will now give up the "Turkish Lounge" area it branded in front of the Security Council -- and from which the Free UN Coalition for Access notes the press has been banned. Another asked if the 3:30 pm photo op of Ban and Turkey's foreign minister will be canceled. We'll have more on this.

   Inner City Press polled diplomats about their votes -- there were more laughs than candid answers -- then headed up to the photographers' booth over the GA floor. All was well until the President of the GA said to not take photos as countries cast their ballots. So they can tell you what to photograph?

  On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press challenged the policy, tweeting a photograph of the desks below, complete with New Zealand's swag bag.

  UN Media Accreditation and Liaison came in and told Inner City Press to leave the booth, it was only for "wire services." But MALU has no definition of wire service, as another FUNCA member has long pointed out. And the spot Inner City Press was ousted from was given to the UN's in-house photo service. This is today's UN.

  On the eve of the vote at the UN to elect five new members to the Security Council, one of the candidates in the contested race, Turkey, held a reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

  Numerous diplomats milling around the Starlight Roof Ballroom marveled to Inner City Press at Turkey's bombing of the PKK while across the border Kobane is under siege. But even most of these predicted that Turkey would win a seat, citing the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its 57 votes.

  Introduced by Turkish Ambassador Halit Cevik, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked those in attendance, singling out his Spanish counterpart, then gave a short speech. He said, "Peace at home, peace in the world," which some found ironic. But again, that prediction.

  Turkey's swag bag, on the way out of the Waldoft, contained an Istanbul thermos, compared to New Zealand's UN Handbook, writing book and pen.

   Four weeks after New Zealand released its UN Handbook and talked up its race against Spain and Turkey for two seats on the UN Security Council, on October 10 Inner City Press ran into a familiar face in the UN pressing the Kiwis' cause: Jose Ramos-Horta.

  After winning the Nobel Peace Prize - today given to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi - Ramos Horta served the UN most recently as envoy to Guinea Bissau.

  Ramos Horta greeted Inner City Press on October 10 on the second floor of the UN Conference Building, outside the General Assembly's meeting on Ebola. After some pleasantries, Inner City Press asked, What brings you through the UN?

  Ramos Horta replied that he is lobbying for New Zealand to win a Security Council seat. Asked about Turkey, he rolled his eyes, citing Erdogan. Others have wondered how the (in) action in Kobane may impact Turkey's chances. Anyway the area outside the Security Council has already been cleared of journalists and called the "Turkish Lounge."

 In the October 16 election, which of the three will be left out?

  Two years ago it was Finland, whose Permanent Representative gave Inner City Press an inflated vote count of 165 on the eve of the election. This has become urban legend and now no one makes predictions. But there is spin.

   New Zealand is a small country, but one which can relate to outsiders like Eritrea. The last time they were on the Council, they spoke up for Rwanda. They fought a war with Turkey, which has led to a bond. Still, the Kiwis were surprised when Turkey jumped into what would have been a “clean slate” with Spain.

  There should have been no surprise: Turkey feels itself a rising power, they paid for and branded the area outside the Security Council, previously open to the press, into a “Turkish Lounge.” But how will their crackdowns inside Turkey, and now reticence to join up with Obama's coalition against ISIS play?

  For the European Union, could the live with both Western European and Other Group seats going to non-EU members? Then again, it is pointed out, the EU spans three UN regional groups: WEOG, Eastern Europe and even the Asia Pacific Group, through Cyprus. So how could the UN tell its members how to vote? The election's set for October 16.

  In the next contested WEOG race in 2016 it's slated to be Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy; in 2018 it'll be Belgium, Israel and Germany. Inner City Press -- and as regards press freedom issues, the Free UN Coalition for Access -- will be covering these and other races: Fiji and Malaysia this time; in 2016, Kenya versus Seychelles, Thailand versus Kazakhstan. In 2017, Kuwait and Yemen face off; in 2018, Maldives and Indonesia. Watch this site, and this one.

Footnote: At least since 1961, New Zealand has produced a UN Handbook. Its new one was unveiled on September 12 at the country's UN mission on Third Avenue, in hardcopy and a smart phone app. There was Chardonnay and schmoozing, a handbook-themed chocolate bar (hopefully not bad karma, after Finland's Martti bar); and previously copies of the handbook. The 1961 edition listed the UN General Assembly's “Committee for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea, UNCURK.” Plus ca change.


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