At the United Nations everyone obeyed the decisions of two countries.
Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
Interview conducted by Desislava Pateva with Ambassador Ivan Garvalov who has worked at the United Nations for over 30 years. He had diplomatic posts in India, Burma, Indonesia, Egypt and others. He worked for two terms as the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN Human Rights Council. As an independent expert to the United Nations, he has contributed to the elimination of racial discrimination. After returning to Bulgaria, Garvalov held several managerial positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including that of deputy minister.
– Ambassador Garvalov, the second nomination by Bulgaria for the post of UN Secretary General created an unprecedented precedent. Kristalina Georgieva, however, was far more unconvincing. In your opinion, why did it come to this?
– I will tell you my opinion as a Bulgarian diplomat who knows a lot about the United Nations. Bulgaria presented two candidates for the post of UN Secretary General – Irina Bokova and Georgieva. Although both have been unsuccessful, they represented Bulgaria, not someone else. And that left an impression. Irina was replaced by Kristalina Georgieva, after several informal votes where Bokova could not rank in higher positions. The official explanation of the Prime Minister was that Irina Bokova could not achieve more, so she had to be replaced. There was another candidate who also had a very strong position and therefore had to represent Bulgaria. It didn’t happen, but not because Bulgaria could not arrange it gracefully. Its embarrassing for me to say it, but I’ll do it – we did not get it because the UN is not ready to make a woman secretary-general.
– But many stubbornly talked that the post should be taken by a woman, and from Eastern Europe.
– In those times when I was at the UN, we were separated. Bulgaria then, was with the Soviet Union and the other side was the West, during Cold War between East and West. The United Nations have found common solutions to some very important issues that have left me surprised. I have not been to any other state job other than a diplomat. My view is that first a step must be taken in the UN, before to the top of the organization can be a woman. Whether from Eastern or Western Europe or other continents, that I can not say, but it still can not be done. I do not hear it, I do not see it. I do not want to go into details, but in those few votes, the newly elected Secretary General also received some negative votes, and very serious one at that. And then all of a sudden they disappeared, and a man was chosen.
Men believe that they should be first. However, Mrs. Irina Bokova was elected Director-General of UNESCO twice. Moreover, when the elections for UNESCO were held 7 years ago, there was a very strong candidate, a man from Egypt. He could not win, Irina Bokova was elected. So UNESCO managed to take this step!
– Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that the election of Antonio Guterres was predestined because there was an agreement between the big countries.
– I must tell you that his thesis coincides with mine. I can not say that I have a different view, since I’ve been in the UN for many years and I know how these things happen. Sometimes the biggest decisions on some issues were taken by two people who withdrew somewhere while we all stood and waited. When they returned, they already had the solution, and we all obeyed. In the Security Council that’s how it was.
Bulgaria was a member of the Security Council for the second time in 1986-1987, while I was ambassador and represented our country. We had meetings on issues which constantly cause problems for different countries. The meeting ended at 1:00. I left the room to go to the restaurant on the fourth floor and in front of it were lined up 15 ambassadors of different countries who participated in some debate. They began to talk to me – first the Iraqi ambassador, with him we were very close. After him – the next, and so on … I could not get to the restaurant because I have to say something to all these 15 ambassadors.
In those years the UN was an active organization – we worked day and night. Many times we gathered in the Security Council on Sunday, when we have to decide something very quickly. And we can not get together at 6 pm, because all we scattered around. So we congregated at 10 pm. And we would discuss all night. That is the United Nations. The choice can not be accidental. What happened and how it happened is not accidental either.
– You mentioned that Bulgaria, among other countries is subject to foreign decisions. From where are these decisions passed down?
– For those times, during the Cold War – from the United States and the Soviet Union. In the Security Council, which includes 15 Member States, there was discussion, but that discussion was a great fight between one and the other. They get up and depart, but in the hallways there were exchanged some remarks, and suddenly something quite different was decided. This is the face of the United Nations. Now Russia is not as great as it was at that time, but either way its agreement is required. Same with the United States. They negotiate something that all others accept.
– Can you give an example of a case where initially there was no consensus, then surprisingly a solution was found?
– The examples are many. I think of my recent memoirs, in which I described the relations between Bulgaria and Turkey in the United Nations during 1984-1989 year. Then with Turkey we were absolute opponents. We ambassadors had a very good relationship before that, but then we became enemies. During this time everyone knew about the relations between Bulgaria and Turkey. When the General Assembly was beginning and various representatives – presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, spoke on behalf of their country, Turkey always spoke against Bulgaria. Of course, Bulgaria also took a position on this issue. In the General Assembly, the Security Council and elsewhere, the relationship between Bulgaria and Turkey never came up. The UN waited for the two sides to a fight, however it did not bring up a question. Of course, Turkey is a member of the organization “Islamic Conference”, which includes 56 countries. They gathered and made decisions against Bulgaria, but these decisions are not the decisions of the United Nations.
Going back to our representatives. I do not know Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva, but I know her value. I know Mrs. Irina Bokova, because as newly appointed at the Foreign Ministry of Bulgaria, she came to work with me. The Foreign Minister asked me to take a new person to the Directorate of Human Rights. We started to work, and then in 1982 I went to the United Nations for a second time, where she was also appointed. We worked on all sorts of issues. She continued her diplomatic activity and was Bulgaria’s ambassador to Paris. Then she was elected Director-General of UNESCO. All this is diplomacy. She knows a lot and has been a diplomat all her life. She really could have been elected UN Secretary General. But it did not work. I repeat, based on my participation in the UN, those who always solved the biggest questions of the UN have not decided that UN Secretary-General should be a woman.
– Excluding this factor, can we say that the nomination of a second candidacy for the post by Bulgaria weakened Irina Bokova?
– There may be grounds to such a vision, or maybe not. During the last vote Irina Bokova was not an official candidate of Bulgaria but was independent. Kristalina Georgieva was nominated, but Irina Bokova took more points. I carefully listened to the Prime Minister, when he spoke about these issues. I see how difficult was this decision for him. It was not acceptable enough to make such a change, but anyway it happened. Let’s see the other reality. A small Bulgaria, a member of the United Nations on December 14, 1955, had two candidates for the highest UN post. So far this has not happened.
– According to former Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, Bulgarian politicians always believe that our country plays a greater role than what is allocated to it, and that the great powers do not discuss their decisions with Bulgaria. Was it a realistic ambition that a Bulgarian candidate would lead both the UN and UNESCO?
– I know Dr. Solomon Passy, and I know his work. He knows a lot. I can not disagree with that. But let me say that for President of the UN General Assembly – the largest of the six organizations of the United Nations, already in the early years of the United Nations was nominated a woman? On top of that – from Africa. Only after the end of World War II, did human rights began to play a much bigger role. The first task was to eliminate racial discrimination and gender discrimination. The International Convention on the Rights of Women was approved very late. I have participated in its creation and we fought a lot about it. Within the organization for women’s rights there are more members than in the United Nations organization itself.
– There’s the theory that there was pressure on Boyko Borisov to support Kristalina Georgieva?
– There may be such a thing. Because nothing is just black or just white. Were the other prime ministers around the world not under pressure?
– From where does this pressure come from? Should this change of candidate be investigated as there are doubts about backstage games?
– At the United Nations you can not have a situation where one does not affect the other. The UN is the world. Could we would be able to exert some influence on Russia, or on the United States or to France? Why not exert influence on Germany and Mrs. Merkel for the migrants who make problems in Bulgaria? Maybe Germany doesn’t have problems, maybe it can solve them alone, but Germany is far ahead of Bulgaria in every aspect We are in the European Union, but on the southeastern periphery of the Union.
– Should Borisov take responsibility for this foreign policy gaffe and resign, as ABC, BSP and DPS are asking of him?
– I do not take it as a gaffe. I have seen many more cases that could be described as a gaffe, but this is not a gaffe.
– What is the reason that the government did not firmly stand behind Bokova? The main strike against her was that she was a communist? As we know Kristalina also has a communist past … Are there speculations with the theme of ideology?
– And why not sit in the European Union and bring up the issues of Nazism in Germany? A small country like Bulgaria was imposed this regime, this type of behavior in every respect and every second was observed from above. Are we supposed to go to war with those who imposed it? That can’t happen. This is the world. We have many values, we say them aloud, but in different situations values differ.
Bulgaria had the opportunity to present a candidate for the post of UN Secretary General. In both cases the candidates are very popular with many values. I must tell you that in those times when we were in the United Nations, Irina Bokova had a lot of great support from various diplomats in discussions on international law and social discussions related to decolonization and disarmament, in which it participated. There was a good attitude toward us. Bulgaria was a communist country, but who appointed me as Chairman of the Third Committee chief of the General Assembly. Nobody protested against me because if they did we would not be chosen. I represented Bulgaria, I did not represent anyone else.
– Could the United States which is considered one of the most democratic countries in the world, choose for president someone who is portrayed in the media as sexist and xenophobic?
– United States is a country that differs greatly from many other such countries in Western Europe – Germany, Britain, France. The US has always recognized the right of freedom to do whatever you want, in such proportions that in Europe and other continents has not been possible. But since the beginning of electing presidents, there are two parties – Republican and Democratic. And those Republicans, are they also not Democrats? This continues in America for so many years. And there have never been such clashes between the candidates as we see now.
Donald Trump leaves an impression on me, I knew him as a great businessman, before he started to deal with politics. I never thought that he could claim for the post. What he says is shared by a large part of Americans. Mrs. Hillary Clinton has the same problem as the one with the nomination of a woman for the post of UN Secretary General. However, she is very prepared, she was for four years foreign minister or secretary of state, as they say in America. You know that after the US president, comes the secretary of state, not the vice president.
I can not say that democracy in America is hollow. I have been a diplomat in India, Pakistan, Burma, Indonesia, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Egypt and suddenly the government decided to send me to New York in 1970. Even I was puzzled. I went there and ran into the American reality. I must tell you that every day, as I left the house, at every turn see these things. The upper east side of Manhattan was considered to be very developed. Well, yes, but every day you see white and black beggars. On Sunday, dressed in black men and women were walking on 86th street and carrying books in German. The Upper East Side of Manhattan was known for having many Germans. And very often in restaurants we could hear German speech. They had fled at the time of fascist Germany.
– What are the chances of businessman Trump vs Hillary Clinton, who is the personification of the status quo vs the anti systemic player?
– Let’s admit that the world is evolving and so is the United States. I will not be surprised if with these elections the parties of the Republicans and Democrats begin to crack. But anyway, this is the view of Trump. He represents himself, his own views. He has never been a politician before. The Americans who approve of his statements, and there are many, will vote for him. For Hillary will vote the Democrats. But there are divisions there as well because not all Democrats approve of her. Trump has achieved the top in his field, then he decided to run. What about that great American actor – Ronald Reagan, who was twice president of the United States? What did he know about politics? However he became president, backed by a strong Republican Party. One must live in America to understand these things. There, everything is possible. Human rights are much more than what we see in Bulgaria. And of course there are blows below the belt. They claim that there is no discrimination there, but if you’re not rich, you are not going to become a candidate.
– After the last scandal about Trump and his attitude towards women, a number of Republicans disowned their candidate.
– Probably. But if someone withdraws their support, this does not mean that the Republican Party withdrew its support because otherwise the applicant would not have it. Those who support him remain, and as you can see we have two candidates.
– Some say that Hillary Clinton is even more dangerous…
– I must tell you that the way she behaved as secretary of state, left a very big impression. A person who has passed through the US administration. On top of that, she was the wife of the American president. Even if she was not the wife of a president, she could still break through. To me it strikes me that we in Bulgaria see some things which in the States are not visible.
– Is Trump right when he says that Obama and Clinton created the “Islamic state”? Do we consider that the ISIS is a product of the United States to carry out certain geopolitical goals?
– I can not give an explanation, because I do not know the details, but let’s start with this. What happened to the “Arab Spring”? Everyone cheered, and then … Things started off with Iraq. Americans went to look for nuclear weapons. They defeated Saddam Hussein, but they found nothing. So there was no danger. And then all the other things went down. Syria was a very reasonable, pro-European, pro-French country. A country of civilization, and what happened now …
– In your opinion, how will the principal differences between the candidates on Russia, affect the vote ?
– I speak as someone who has lived there for years. I know the Americans. Such things do not amaze me. In this campaign anything is possible. Details can be brought up, which can be bad or good for either candidate depending on the end goal. But I tell you what I see. Clinton surpasses many people – both women and men in her knowledge about how America and its administration should work ahead.
– Do you think the US has artificially created enemy in the face of Russia?
– I’ve always been puzzled. After World War II there were 50,000 Jews in Bulgaria. Many of them moved to Palestine. Israel had not yet been formed. And they fought to create that country. The United States and the Soviet Union supported the establishment of Israel in 1948, such a miracle we have not seen. Naturally, there are Russian Jews. Of course, in America there are many Jews. Both countries supported the formation of a Jewish state. After that such a thing has not happened between the two countries. The two countries were against each other back then, but still came to an agreement.
– Attempts to reach at agreement on Syria failed again and the Americans are constantly throwing accusations against the Russians…
– They both blame each other. After the presidential election in the US, things will settle down. I know the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. When I was in New York, he was First Secretary at the Permanent Representation, then he became a councilor, then deputy permanent representative. Then he became a permanent representative for many years, and then foreign minister. He also knows a lot about the United Nations and the reality in the US. But Russia is Russia, the US is the US. They can agree and we should expect that what they agree on, will be a good thing for us. So far, they have not fought. Hopefully it will not happen.
But Russia is not what it once was. The United States wants to be No. 1 in the world. But there is the European Union, and we have not talked about China, we have not talked about India, we have not talked about some others who are also very serious countries. And at the United Nations they have their vision and their power. And without their consent, not all issues can be resolved. The General Assembly needs to have 50 + 1 to support what you are saying.
I do not know whether Russia will be able to do what it is trying to do behind the United States through Asia – to create a fortress (Eurasia), because China will not agree. China wants to have the same relations with the United States and Russia. India is still in darkness, but in size it is the second force in the world. China’s is 1.7 billion., While India has become 1.5 billion. This can not be without consequences. If the Chinese and Indians start roaming the world…