Who’s the biggest talker at the U.N. this year?
It is perhaps too early to predict how Turkey’s outsized quest for influence in the Middle East and North Africa will turn out. But one thing is becoming clear. A new world order with Turkey at the center will involve a lot more talking. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has so far broken the record ...
It is perhaps too early to predict how Turkey’s outsized quest for influence in the Middle East and North Africa will turn out. But one thing is becoming clear. A new world order with Turkey at the center will involve a lot more talking.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has so far broken the record this year for the longest address before the U.N. General Assembly debate, clocking in at 39 minutes, 23 seconds, more than double the 15 minutes allotted to world leaders.
Surely, Erdogan was no match for the interminable speeches of Cuban President Fidel Castro, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez or deposed Libyan ruler Muammar al-Qaddafi, who droned on for a full 140 minutes during his 2009 speech to the General Assembly.
And he wasn’t even in the same league as Krishna Menon, the Indian envoy who in 1957 delivered the longest speech in U.N. history, speaking before the Security Council on Kashmir for more than eight hours. (No wonder no one talks about Kashmir at the United Nations any more.)
Still, Erdogan outlasted the famously long-winded Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who devoted 30 minutes to railing against the United States, Europe, and the Zionists — and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who trailed Erdogan by nearly two minutes.
It is hard to blame the Turks for wanting to hog the limelight.
The world’s last superpower, the United States, has set a bad example, routinely ignoring the time limit, delivering speeches that routinely ran twice as long as they should have. President Barack Obama has not been a force for change, having committed 36 minutes, 31 seconds, to his post-Arab Spring address at the General Assembly podium.
Next to Obama, America’s closest European allies seemed almost punctual. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, hardly ever at a loss for words, spoke for 24 minutes, 13 seconds, and Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, spoke for only 16 minutes, 54 seconds.
But few could match Jordan’s King Abdullah II, (at 9 min, 25 secs), or Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (11 min, 22 secs), for brevity. With the Arab Spring breathing down the Bahraini royalty’s neck, maybe it was wise choice.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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