Volkan Bozkir and the Credibility of the 75th UN General Assembly Presidency

Updated: May 26

Setakshi Pratha,

Research Intern,

Internationalism Research.

UN has seen 75 years since the day of its establishment on 24th October 1945 in San Francisco, California, United States of America. This Diamond Jubilee is marked by the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Volkan Bozkir. The Turkish diplomat, who has served as the Turkish minister to the European Union, presides the session that started on 15th September 2020. However, this elected president has raised quite a few eyebrows given his stance on genocides committed by Turkey. Though historians and genocide scholars consider the atrocities committed against the Armenian, Greek, Christian, or Assyrian communities during World War I as genocides, Turkey’s official documents and officials adamantly deny its happening.

The term “Genocide” was coined during World War II, in the year 1943 by Raphael Lemkin. During Turkey’s Ottoman Empire era, particularly between 1913 and 1918 there were around five million “ethnic Armenians” killed or expelled, at least 102,000 Christians murdered, and around one million Turkish-Greek population had fled to Greece (there is no official document stating the death toll of the Turkish-Greek population). The “International Association of Genocide Scholars” has recognised in 1997 that the mass murder and expulsion of Armenians was indeed genocide; the association has also recognised the Greek and Assyrian mass-murders as genocide in the year 2007. The Turkish government does not consider the Armenian genocide, a genocide; they have gone as far as to state that they will never accept that the events constituted a genocide. Though they do not dispute the fact that the Turkish military was responsible for killing a considerable number of Armenians, they dispute the number of deaths, stating that death was a common occurrence on both sides of the parties during World War I. The Turkish government’s adamant refusal is often speculated and explained with their fear of facing reparations for their deeds if they accept that bloodbath a genocide. The pattern of outright denial has been seen in Bozkir’s earlier statements. As the 2014 and 2015 progress reports of Turkey in the European Parliament were not accepted by the Turkish government as both the reports referred to the Armenian Genocide. As the Turkish Minister to European Union, Bozkir had stated in 2016 that Turkey’s 2015 report was “unacceptable and would be returned unopened”. The 2015 report was a major sting to Turkey as it had the agenda to recognise the Armenian mass murders as genocide. Mr Bozkir has also made known his displeasure on Pope Francis’ reference to the 1915 Armenian tragedy as genocide. Similar to the Turkish government’s statement, he had claimed that the documents were false and no time in Turkish history was to be ashamed of. In 2019 the US Congress had also agreed that the mass murder of Christians by the Young Turks, the military of the Ottoman Empire, was indeed a genocide.

However, this is not the only accusation Turkey has to face. Turkey has invaded and illegally occupied the Republic of Cyprus since 1974, thus disrespecting and disregarding the UN Security Council Resolutions addressing the same. The Republic of Turkey was also in news for disrespecting UNESCO World Heritage Sites when the state officially converted Hagia Sofia Museum and The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora into Mosques, both formerly UNESCO-protected World Heritage Sites. It is heavily speculated that Turkey has sent migrants to European borders in order to manipulate and destabilise the area. Turkey has also taken upon itself to militarily threaten countries like the United States of America, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Armenia and Greece.

Though the UNESCO had sent a quick reply stating its displeasure over Turkey government’s decision over the Museums to be converted into Mosques, it has amounted to very little. This statement may be supported by the fact that the Turkish representative headed the diamond jubilee session of the United Nations.

The history and formation of the United Nations, just after World War I, suggests and states that the aim of the international organisation is to maintain peace and security among the nations and form just and friendly relations. It also seeks to promote social progress and human rights of the individuals. The two of the four main purposes of the UN are to develop friendly relations among nations and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms. These fundamental goals and Turkey’s customary habits stand at loggerheads with each other.

The position of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations is a position of considerable power and authority. It is the discretion of the president to enforce the opening debate, setting the agenda, limiting speaking times for representatives, and suspending or adjourning debate. However, the president also often invites UN representatives to give briefs. This is enough to mould the state of debates and the topics of discussion in a manner aiding one party and unflattering the other. His appointment may be well perceived as a discredit to all its earlier transgressions or its denial to it. Even if the position was not of authority, his election enough would have been seen as acceptance of Turkey, disregarding its actions.

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