Talks aimed at overcoming a years-long deadlock over disarmament at the United Nations began in acrimony on Tuesday with two countries blocking rivals from taking part in widely criticised manoeuvres that sparked concern about the forum’s future.
Iran blocked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from joining as observers, lashing out at the former’s military record, while Turkey blocked Cyprus in a trend that marks a significant departure from normal U.N. protocol and might set a precedent for other bodies that operate on a consensus basis.
Cyprus expressed “deep regret” at Turkey’s decision, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Turkey still maintains troops in the breakaway northern part of Cyprus following an invasion in 1974 sparked by a short-lived coup in Nicosia.
The blockages drew criticism from other members including Britain, the United States, European Union and India.
One diplomat called it a “new low” for the body while the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, Tatiana Valovaya, said she was “disappointed” with the way it had opened.
“As a general principle, exclusion undermines the fundamental concept of multilateralism,” Valovaya said.
Iran’s delegate said that Saudi Arabia had used the forum as a platform for a “distraction and disinformation campaign” and called Riyadh “the largest military offender in the region”.
Diplomats’ expectations for new deals in the 65-member forum are very low, with agreements often stymied by arms producers in a forum that makes decisions by consensus.
Its last major agreement was the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.