Photographer: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Italy, Netherlands Split UN Security Council Seat After Deadlock

  • Italy to assume seat in 2017, then the Netherlands in 2018
  • Stalemate followed campaign of gelato and environmental boasts

After five rounds of voting and hours of deadlock in a tight race for a coveted seat on the United Nations Security Council, Italy and the Netherlands agreed to share it. Or, more precisely, to split the two-year term.

With votes in the General Assembly tied at 95 each, the two countries agreed Tuesday that Italy will take the Security Council seat for 2017 and the Netherlands for 2018, according to Bert Koenders, the Dutch foreign minister.

Candidates for non-permanent seats on the Security Council have been known to hand out gifts and burnish their national resumes to secure votes. Over the past few weeks, Italy offered diplomats free gelato, while the Netherlands promoted its environmental record and its fight against climate change.

The compromise to share the seat was symbolic as a “message of unity between two European countries,” said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Such splits weren’t unusual in 1960s, before the council’s non-permanent membership was expanded to 10 from six. The last such split-seat agreement was between Czechoslovakia, which held the seat in 1964 and Malaysia, which took over in 1965. A more contentious election took place in 1959 between Poland, which agreed to hold a rotating seat in 1960, and Turkey, which took it in 1961, according to Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark, the current General Assembly president. That compromise came only after 52 ballots, he said.

Council Lineup

The 15-member Security Council is made up of five permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. -- each with veto power that those who rotate through don’t get.

This year, five seats, based on regional rotations, were available. Bolivia and Ethiopia were elected unopposed, and Sweden and Kazakhstan easily won their elections. The departing Security Council members, whose two-year terms end this year, are Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela.

The members that are midway through their rotating terms are Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.

The Italy-Netherlands deal needs to be endorsed by the group of Western nations before the General Assembly votes on approving the compromise.

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