A Week in the Life - Danilo Turk, Un Ambassador: Endless round of war and jaw in good company

"THIS IS a non-stop place, but once you understand its special rhythms you can survive it." So says Danilo Turk, a professor of international law, who in 1992 became Slovenia's first ambassador to the United Nations on its independence. For the past two years, Slovenia has served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This month Dr Turk is its president.

"Friends at home say that I must have special privileges, that this job must be glamorous," Dr Turk says with a chuckle. "Well, it really isn't." He has an Upper East Side apartment and a chauffeur-driven Lincoln - but Britain's ambassador glides about in a Rolls. "That is only for the UK; it has to be something special for them."

Running the council is daunting for a small country. Dr Turk, 47, has eight diplomats in New York, compared to 33 in the British mission. The British, he says, can turn out draft resolutions "on an industrial scale". For the Slovenians it is not so easy.

TWO MONDAYS ago was the start of a hectic week. Slovenia's Foreign Minister, Boris Frlec, chaired a special council meeting attended by the three ethnic leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The UN was abuzz after a report by the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, acknowledged errors that led to the overrunning of Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995 and the ensuing massacre.

ON TUESDAY the council convenes at 10.30am and focuses on trouble in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and new sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Later the Slovenians pose for a "family photo" with Mr Frlec in the chamber.

COUNCIL discussions on Wednesday are tricky as ambassadors struggle to renew the six-month oil-for-food regime for Iraq. The talks last all day, punctuated by a "very pleasant" lunch at the Hungarian embassy for the incoming ambassador of Austria. "We all have a nice social life. I find it pleasing always to be in the company of educated and sophisticated people."

THURSDAY IS a rest day for the council. Dr Turk uses the time to catch up, sending cables to Ljubljana and drafting a council report on measures to prevent armed conflict. He gets word from a group of diplomats trying to settle the draft Iraq oil-for-food resolution. Ominous news - Moscow is digging its heels in.

ON FRIDAY, there is agreement on a stop-gap resolution to roll over the Iraq oil-for-food arrangements for two weeks. Dr Turk convenes a formal, public council session for a broader debate on Iraq. It is a testy meeting. Non-permanent members attack the five permanent members because they have failed to resolve the other Iraq conundrum: the institution of a new weapons inspection regime.

Tempers are never lost, either in public session or behind closed doors. "This is a highly professional group," Dr Turk says. The friction at this meeting attracts instant attention. "There was a lot of excitement in the press because this was one of the few occasions when dissatisfaction had come to the surface. Feelings were quite strong." But a two-hour lunch at the Swedish ambassador's residence to discuss UN finances provides solace, as does dinner at the house of the representative of the Holy See.

SOME WEEKENDS bring no rest to the council if there is a crisis, such as Kosovo or Iraq. Not this weekend; Dr Turk visits Massachusetts with his wife and two American friends on Saturday, and on Sunday he finishes reading the Srebrenica report and indulges in some academic reading - a tome on the tactics of social revolution by Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukacs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'