Stung by allegations of using underhanded tactics, Germany has responded sharply to Italian statements that Germany, Brazil, India and Japan resorted to blackmail to secure permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
The German foreign ministry, led by Fischer, has denied any foul play
In dramatically undiplomatic language, the Italian ambassador to the UN this week, Marcello Spatafora, accused Germany, Brazil, India and Japan, the so-called Group of Four (G4) of engaging in blackmail and financial threats in order to win support for their bid.
"Reforms cannot be dictated by power or money," Spatafora noted. "We have a moral obligation not to allow a reform of the Security Council to be decided in this unhealthy and poisoned environment."
Both the German foreign and development ministries responded strongly to the accusations that the G4 were linking their development aid money to support for their candidacy.
"These are naturally unsustainable accusations and I can only reject them quite bluntly," said foreign ministry spokesman Jens Plötner. "They are completely baseless."
German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (photo) insisted that Germany gives its aid according to transparent criteria in accordance with international rules from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD).
Spatafora, who alleged the G4 was "blackmailing some sectors of the membership,” said one country from the group had withdrawn a 370,000-euro ($460,000) development project for children from a recipient country which chose not to support the G4 resolution. He didn’t specify names, but his mention of a donor country indirectly pointed the finger at Germany or Japan, the major aid contributors among the group.
Japan also dismissed the allegations as groundless.
Underhanded tactics not new to UN?
But UN expert Andreas Zumach said such arm-twisting would not be new to the United Nations.
"This kind of behavior, of blackmailing, of threatening to withdraw development aid or other financial contributions, is not surprising," said Zumach. "It's really not new. We've seen it many times. The last most specific case was during the Iraq conflict when the US and also Britain tried to blackmail members of the Security Council -- especially from Africa and Latin America -- into voting for a resolution authorizing the war against Iraq."
The G4 have proposed increasing Security Council membership from 15 to 25. Six of the new members would have permanent seats -- one each for the four countries and two for African nations -- but without veto powers. The proposal is backed by more than 30 countries, including France and Britain.
Italy sore about being left out?
But one of its key critics is Italy. Again that’s no surprise, according to Zumach.
"Right from the start of the debate about reforming the Security Council, which was 11 years ago, the Italian government was adamantly against only Germany getting a permanent seat while Italy would not get one," said Zumach.
The G4 position has also been opposed by the African Union, which wants the new permanent members to hold veto powers.
The G4 and AU will be meeting next week for yet another round of discussions. Experts believe they may well reach a compromise this time.