Turkish President Erdogan: UN Security Council became 'battleground' for 5 permanent members' political strategies

President Erdogan says Türkiye considers recent events in Northern Cyprus sign of this 'empty institutional structure’ at the UN

Rabia İclal Turan  | 19.09.2023 - Update : 20.09.2023
Turkish President Erdogan: UN Security Council became 'battleground' for 5 permanent members' political strategies Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers his remarks during the 78th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, United States on September 19, 2023.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said the UN Security Council no longer works to ensure global security but instead is an arena for its five permanent member states to engage in strategic confrontations.

​​​​​​​"The Security Council is no longer the guarantor of international security and has become a battleground where the political strategies of five countries clash," said the president.

Addressing the annual UN General Assembly in New York, Erdogan added that Türkiye considers recent events in Northern Cyprus – in which UN peacekeepers tried to block the building of a vital connecting road – a “manifestation of this empty institutional structure that provides neither justice nor trust.” 

“We must immediately restructure institutions under the UN roof responsible for ensuring world peace, security, and welfare,” Erdogan said.

“We must build a global governance architecture that is capable of representing all origins, beliefs and cultures in the world,” he added.

During his speech, Erdogan once again reiterated his oft-repeated slogan for UN reform, “The world is bigger than five,” referring to the unrepresentative nature of the UN Security Council’s five permanent, veto-wielding members.

The effectiveness of the Security Council has been questioned in the face of recent crises, especially after Russian launched its war against Ukraine nearly 19 months ago. Russia, one of the five permanent Security Council members, is accused of using its veto power to block resolutions related to Ukraine.

The council’s other permanent members are the US, UK, France, and China.

During the current General Assembly, US President Joe Biden also said that the US will continue to push for badly needed UN Security Council reforms amid ongoing "gridlock" that has prevented the body from carrying out its core duties.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN cannot continue the status quo, that the need for reform of the institution is urgent.  

'Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory'

President Erdogan asserted that Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory, and the imposition of any other status for the region would never be accepted.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers his remarks during the 78th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, United States

"We have supported the negotiation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia from the beginning. However, we see that Armenia has not fully seized this historic opportunity," Erdogan said.

He expressed Türkiye's expectation that Armenia fulfill its commitments, especially those related to the opening of the Zangezur corridor, a key planned unimpeded road through Armenian territory connecting Azerbaijan to its Nakhchivan exclave.

"As everyone now accepts, Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory. The imposition of any other status will never be accepted," Erdogan underlined, adding that the primary goal should now be peaceful coexistence for all, including Armenians, on Azerbaijani territory.

Türkiye supports Azerbaijan's steps to preserve its territorial integrity, he said.

On Tuesday, Azerbaijan launched "counter-terrorism measures" in Karabakh to uphold provisions outlined in a November 2020 trilateral peace agreement it signed with Russia and Armenia following 44 days of clashes with Yerevan.

Steps were taken to "suppress large-scale provocations in the Karabakh economic region, to disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces from our territories, neutralize their military infrastructure, provide the safety of the civilian population which returned to territories liberated from occupation, civilians involved in construction and restoration work and our military personnel, and ultimately restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan," the country's Defense Ministry said.

Relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

In the fall of 2020, Azerbaijan liberated several cities, villages, and settlements from Armenian occupation during 44 days of clashes. The war ended with a Russia-brokered cease-fire.

Tensions between the two nations, however, continue despite ongoing talks aiming for a long-term peace agreement.   

Cyprus issue

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece's annexation of the island led to Türkiye's military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots thwarted a UN plan to end the longstanding dispute.

Türkiye fully supports a two-state solution on the island of Cyprus based on sovereign equality and equal international status.​​​​​​​

On Aug. 18, UN peacekeepers intervened in road construction work to link the Turkish Cypriot village of Pile in the island’s buffer zone with the rest of the TRNC.

The roadwork is strategically important for residents as it will give them more options to reach Pile, where Turks and Greek Cypriots live together.

The Greek Cypriot administration and the UN, however, opposed to the project.  

European Union

President Erdogan also said Türkiye expects EU to fulfill “its long-neglected obligations towards our country”.

“The increasingly complex nature of regional and global challenges indicates that there is a need, now more than ever, to advance Turkish-European Union relations on a healthy basis,” he said. “We expect the European Union to swiftly start fulfilling its long-neglected obligations towards our country,” said the president.

“Especially the ambivalent attitudes towards Türkiye have to come to an end,” he added.

Türkiye applied for EU membership in 1987 and has been a candidate country since 1999.

Negotiations for full membership started in October 2005 but have stalled in recent years due to political hurdles erected by some countries.  

Islamophobia at 'intolerable levels'

During his address, the Turkish leader also warned that levels of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia have all climbed to a dangerous breaking point.

"Racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, which spread like a virus especially in developed countries, have reached intolerable levels," Erdogan said.

Signs of xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia spiraling into a new crisis have reached alarming proportions in the last year, he said.

Stating that hate speech, polarization, and discrimination against innocent people hurt the public conscience in all corners of the world, the Turkish leader lamented that populist politicians in many countries continue to play with fire by encouraging these dangerous trends.

"The mentality which encourages heinous attacks against the holy Quran in Europe by allowing them under the guise of freedom of expression is in fact darkening its own future," said the president.

He stressed that Türkiye will continue to support initiatives to combat Islamophobia on all platforms, in particular the UN, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The president also called on world leaders who he said reject such attacks on sacred values to instead support Türkiye's struggle.

Erdogan’s speech followed a rash of attacks on the Quran such as burnings and other desecrations, particularly in northern European countries, and often committed with police protection.

The attacks have drawn widespread outrage and condemnation.   


President Erdogan also issued a stern warning about the potential consequences of military interference in Niger as he emphasized the risk of deeper instability for that nation and the entire Sahel region.

Erdogan said the Sahel faces serious political, economic, social and security challenges.

"Any military intervention in Niger risks plunging this country and the entire region into deeper instability," he warned. "We hope that Niger, which has been going through troubled times recently, reaches a constitutional order and a democratic governance as soon as possible.”

Niger was plunged into turmoil July 26 when Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, a former commander of the presidential guard, led a military intervention that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

The furor against French presence in the country provoked a row with Paris.

Military administrations took power in neighboring Burkina Faso in 2022 and in Mali in 2020.  

Development Road project

The Turkish leader said Türkiye hopes to advance integration in its region with a road and rail project linking its southeastern border with southern Iraq.

"We hope to further strengthen regional integration with the Development Road project," Erdogan said.

Türkiye and Iraq are working to build a land and railroad transportation corridor from the Iraqi province of Basra to the Turkish border.

Erdogan also said Türkiye acts with an understanding that "strengthens Iraq's political unity, territorial integrity, and reconstruction efforts," and does not differentiate between the "elements that make up the country."   

Syria, overt support to terror groups

The support given to terror groups by forces with interests in the region pose the gravest threat to the unity of neighboring Syria, said President Erdogan.

“The biggest threat to Syria's territorial integrity and political unity is the overt support given to terrorist organizations under the direction of the powers which harbor designs on this country,” he said.

He said the Syrian people, overwhelmed by the terrorist group PKK/PYD on the one hand and radical groups organized on the basis of sectarian divisions on the other, have reached the point of revolt.

“Indeed, as a result, various consequences recently began to emerge,” he said.

The Turkish president also used his UN General Assembly address to reiterate his support for Syrians devasted by the decade-long civil war in the country, saying: “Türkiye will certainly not abandon to their fate more than 4 million people in northern Syria, who are struggling to survive in difficult conditions.”

“As the construction of settlements beyond our borders, which we are pioneering, is completed, we will continue to encourage the return of refugees to these places,” he added, referring to housing projects spearheaded by Türkiye in opposition-held areas near its borders.

Pointing to the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, now in its 13th year, Erdogan said: “We are the only country to have shown a principled, constructive and fair attitude on the developments which are threatening Syria's political unity, as well as its social integrity and economic structure.”

“It is becoming increasingly important to end the crisis south of our country (in Syria) through a comprehensive, permanent, and sustainable solution, which will meet the legitimate expectations of the Syrian people,” he said.

Also mentioning the devastating impact of the Feb. 6 earthquakes, which affected 14 million people in Türkiye as well as millions in Syria, Erdogan said: “The already dire humanitarian situation, particularly in northwest Syria, has worsened.”

“It is an unfortunate development that United Nations cross-border humanitarian assistance in the region has been interrupted at such a time,” he added, referring to a resolution on using a border crossing for Syrian aid, vetoed by the UN Security Council, whose structure and membership Erdogan has also criticized.  


On another of Türkiye’s southern neighbors, Iraq, Erdogan said that Baghdad “is also displaying genuine efforts to overcome the internal and external challenges it faces.”

“We act with an understanding geared at strengthening Iraq's political unity, territorial integrity, and reconstruction efforts, and which does not discriminate between the constituent elements of that country,” he added.

On the terrorist group Daesh/ISIS, Erdogan said: “As the leader of the country which has waged the biggest struggle against Daesh in deed, inflicted the greatest losses on this group, and who knows very well the overt and background facts of the problem, I would like to speak openly,” he said.

“We are fed up with the hypocrisy of those who use Daesh and similar organizations as a cover for their own political and economic interests, first and foremost in Syria and Iraq, but also in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Sahel region,” he said.

Noting that Daesh/ISIS “is not the only threat in these regions,” Erdogan said: “The real threat consists of the terrorist organizations, paramilitary groups, mercenaries and some local elements working for the highest bidder which are nurtured and strengthened to be used as tools of proxy wars.”

“The countries which continue to work with terrorist organizations despite this reality, purely for their own political and economic interests, have no right to complain about terrorism and related issues,” he said.

“In such a world, no one is safe, whether they live right next to a conflict zone or far away on a land surrounded by oceans,” he added.

For years, Türkiye has repeatedly protested US support in northern Syria for the terrorist group PKK/YPG, supposedly to fight Deash/ISIS. It makes no sense to use one terrorist group to fight anther, Turkish officials have argued.  

Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Palestinian-Israeli conflict

On Yemen, Erdogan expressed his “deep sadness” on the situation in the country, situated on the southern tip of the Saudi Peninsula, which has faced a years-long civil war.

“It is our biggest wish that this problem be solved as soon as possible within the national unity and territorial integrity of Yemen,” he said.

On Egypt, Erdogan said that Ankara and Cairo “have entered a period in which we have started to develop our relations in all fields, which were stagnant for a while.”

“We are determined to advance our cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit in this new period,” he said.

Erdogan also said permanent peace in the Middle East is only possible through a lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“We will continue to support the Palestinian people and state in their struggle for their legitimate rights on the basis of international law,” the Turkish president said.

“To reiterate once again, without the creation of an independent and contiguous Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, it is also difficult for Israel to find the peace and security it seeks,” he added, implicitly criticizing the continuing Israeli occupation.

“In this context, we will pursue our efforts, so that the historic status of Jerusalem, especially Al-Haram Al-Sharif is respected,” he said, referring to the historic Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On last week’s deadly floods in Libya, Erdogan said: “Following the disaster, Türkiye took immediate action to help Libya, where 10,000 people lost their lives and thousands still remain unaccounted for.”

“As a first step, with three ships and three planes, we provided aid to Libya consisting of hundreds of vehicles, thousands of tons of food, shelter and sanitary supplies, alongside 567 personnel,” he said.

“Our non-governmental organizations are also participating in the activities in the region with their own means,” he added. “As a country which stands by victims and the oppressed wherever they are in the world, we have not forsaken, nor will we ever, our Libyan brothers and sisters.”

The Turkish president also extended his wishes for recovery to “our Moroccan brothers who were struck by a strong earthquake like the one that struck our country,” referring to the quake that hit the Norhth African country on Sept. 8.

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