Greece, Cyprus, Armenia block Turkey's candidacy to head U.N. General Assembly

Greece, Cyprus and Armenia have objected to a bid by Turkey to become the next president of the United Nations General Assembly, the first such move in the organisation's history, T24 said on Monday.

The U.N. president serves a one-year term and the office rotates among five regional groupings of U.N. member states. The Western Europe and Others Group, of which Turkey is a member, will hold the 2020-2021 term. Turkey’s candidate is Volkan Bozkır, a former Minister of European Affairs and senior diplomat.

The president is elected by acclamation to preside over the relevant session of the General Assembly. But, in the absence of physical meetings due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. adopted "the silence procedure" which provides the member states with at least 72 hours to raise objections on a draft resolution or decision. 

Greece, Cyprus and Armenia rejected Turkey's candidacy during the silence period, despite their earlier approval of the nomination, T24 said.

Thus, the U.N. General Assembly is obliged to hold a full vote for president even if Western Europe and Others Group managed to endorse a sole candidate, T24 reported.

Bozkır is now a member of parliament for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). If he is selected, it will be the first time Turkey has held the U.N.'s largely symbolic role. Bozkır would take office in September 2020 and hold the office for 12 months, at a time when relations between Europe and Turkey are tense.

Turkey, which is negotiating European Union membership, is embroiled in political disputes with Greece and Cyprus over mineral exploration in the Mediterranean and territorial rights there and in the nearby Aegean Sea. Its relations with Armenia are marred by its refusal to admit to a genocide of ethnic Armenians in Turkey early last century.

On Saturday, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said in an interview for Politico Europe that if Turkey did not tone down its aggression in the eastern Mediterranean it should no longer be considered a candidate for European Union membership.

"Either they are compliant with the terms and conditions of any other candidate country, otherwise they could not be either a candidate or accepted," Anastasiades said.