Treachery charges fly in fight for UN job

2012-03-29 16:00

New York - Accusations of threats, Cold War-style treachery and backstage attempts by Russia to punish a former Soviet ally are turning a routine election for a high-profile but largely ceremonial UN post into a bitter diplomatic tussle.

The countries vying for the presidency of the 193-nation UN General Assembly are Serbia and Lithuania. Both want the 12-month post that involves chairing the annual gathering of world leaders in New York in September and other UN events.

The UN assembly has no real power. Unlike the 15-nation Security Council, which can issue legally binding resolutions and authorise sanctions or military interventions, the assembly's decisions are recommendations with no legal force.

Still, Lithuanian UN Ambassador Dalius Cekuolis and Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic both want the job, which is currently held by Qatar's UN Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser. If neither candidate withdraws, the two will face off in a rare secret-ballot General Assembly vote in June.

Traditionally, the presidency of the General Assembly, which diplomats usually refer to by the initials "PGA", rotates between the five regional groups of UN member states. In 2012/2013, it is the Eastern European Group's turn to hold it.

In a conversation with a small group of reporters in New York earlier this month, Cekuolis and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis described their annoyance with Serbia seeking the post, which they have been eyeing since 2004.

First shot at job

"The time has come for us as well to be represented," said Azubalis, adding that Cekuolis' 2007 stint as the chair of the Economic and Social Council, one of six main UN bodies, had given Vilnius' UN envoy vital experience for the job.

Serbia, a European Union candidate which is emerging from more than a decade o f isolation after the 1990s Balkan wars, has never had a shot at a UN job. "This is the first time that Serbia put forward a candidacy for a post within the UN system," Jeremic said in an interview.

"All other countries from our part of the world had their chance to run for and serve either on the Security Council or in the General Assembly," the 36-year-old Jeremic said.

Jeremic has become a familiar face at the United Nations in recent years, forcefully arguing Serbia's case in the Security Council and General Assembly against Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Belgrade, which the Serbs say was illegal.

But Jeremic, who is among Europe's longest-serving foreign ministers, may have other reasons for seeking a job in New York.

Serbian analysts and Western diplomats say Jeremic has lost support within the senior ranks of the co-ruling Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic, particularly over a number of diplomatic setbacks in Serbia's opposition to the independence of its former southern province, Kosovo.

Russian obsession

Diplomats from the Eastern European Group made clear they would prefer to avoid turning to the General Assembly to help decide who from their group would take the post. The last time the assembly voted on a PGA was in 1991.

Lithuania, a member of the European Union , suggested Russia might be encouraging Serbia to punish Vilnius for past remarks about World War II.

"What we have heard unofficially is that Russia is obsessed about how we see the history of the second World II," Azubalis said. Cekulouis said the Russians had warned Lithuania as early as November 2011 "there might be other candidates".

Russia's annoyance with the former Soviet republic that regained independence after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union may be due to remarks Cekuolis made in May 2010 at a General Assembly session commemorating the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.

"To our nation, the end of the war did not bring freedom," Cekuolis said. "Instead, it resulted in the occupation and renewed annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union."

"My country was subjected to the rule of another totalitarian regime, that of Soviet communism," he said.

Diplomatic retaliation

Russia's UN mission made no attempt to hide its irritation with Cekuolis' remarks, but vehemently denied any role in the candidacy of Serbia, a strong Russian ally, for the PGA post.

"From the very beginning we openly told Lithuanians that we could not support a candidate for General Assembly presidency who does not understand the importance of the victory over Nazism - the very victory that made the creation of the United Nations possible," the mission said in a statement.

Azubalis also accused Jeremic of threatening Lithuania with diplomatic retaliation if Cekuolis refuses to withdraw from the race - saying Serbia would attempt to block Lithuania's bid for a two-year seat on the UN Security Council in 2014/2015.

Jeremic, who diplomats say is tipped to defeat Cekulouis in a vote, denied threatening the Lithuanians but confirmed he told them Belgrade would lobby on their behalf to win a seat on the Security Council if Cekuolis withdrew his PGA candidacy.

Read more on:    un  |  russia  |  serbia  |  lithuania

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB

GALAXY Note combines the market's largest HD Super AMOLED display,...

From R3899.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.