UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Turkey failed in its effort to join the U.N.'s most powerful body on Thursday, while Venezuela, New Zealand, Spain, Angola and Malaysia were elected to coveted Security Council seats.
Special attention had been on Turkey as it is under growing pressure to do more about the war in Syria pushing up against its border. Turkey lobbied heavily among the General Assembly's 193 member states for their votes, with its foreign minister hosting a party at the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel the night before the vote.
In competition with New Zealand and Spain for two seats representing the western group of nations, Turkey fell behind as New Zealand easily gained a seat on the first ballot and Spain made it on the third.
"We could not abandon our principles for the sake of getting more votes," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in comments carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency.
The five winners will join the Security Council on Jan. 1 and serve through 2016 as non-veto-wielding members. They will replace Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda.
Venezuela's socialist government was unopposed for the single seat allocated to Latin America and the Caribbean. Angola was the only candidate for an African seat, and Malaysia had no opposition for an Asian seat.
With Venezuela's victory, Russia and China will likely gain an ally on key international issues that have put them at odds with the three Western permanent council members — the U.S., Britain and France. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has close ties with Syria's President Bashar Assad and Iran and has strongly supported Russia in the Ukraine crisis.
In Caracas, a jubilant Maduro appeared on television shortly after the vote and led his cabinet in an extended round of applause. He said the win showed the support the "entire world" has for the late President Hugo Chavez's vision.
The victory comes on the heels of a report from a U.N. body condemning Venezuela for taking political prisoners during a crackdown on anti-government street protests this spring.
The United States, which publicly opposed Venezuela's last attempt to join the council in 2006, did not do so this time and would not discuss how it voted Thursday. Ten countries abstained in that vote.
"Unfortunately, Venezuela's conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter, and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the Charter's letter," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement shortly after the vote.
Venezuela's two-year term will give the country a high-profile arena for fiery rhetoric — much of it likely from Chavez's daughter, Maria Gabriela Chavez, who was recently named deputy ambassador to the U.N.
Some diplomats didn't mention Venezuela in their traditional well-wishes. "Warm congrats #Angola, #Malaysia, #New Zealand on election to #UNSecurityCouncil! @NZUN. Looking forward to working together," Lithuania's ambassador, Raimonda Murmokaite, tweeted. She congratulated Spain once it made it in.
Rights observers expressed concern at some of the newly elected council members.
"The Security Council's new membership could prove more problematic on human rights issues, with several generally rights-friendly countries leaving and others coming on board with poor voting records," Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "This is particularly true of Venezuela, which has consistently challenged protection efforts at the (U.N.) Human Rights Council, but also of Angola and Malaysia, which need to demonstrate a more human rights-oriented approach in New York than they did in Geneva."
Thursday's ballots were secret, and to win, each country had to obtain support of two-thirds of all General Assembly members present, or a minimum of 129 votes if all 193 members participate.
Associated Press writer Hannah Dreier in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this story.