Saudi Arabia Surprises World in Turning Down U.N. Security Council Seat
Saudi Arabia on Thursday was elected as one of five U.N. members to take up seats among the ten non-permanent members of the Council, beginning in 2014. The two-year term is usually heavily lobbied for among the regional groupings that determine the number of seats available and Saudi Arabia was no exception. Gift bags to members of the General Assembly from the Saudi Mission showed the gratitude for the 176 votes out of 192 countries who make up the body — despite the fact that Saudi Arabia ran unopposed — illustrate the desire of the mission to take over a seat for the first time since it joined the United Nations in 1945.
On Friday, however, a different tune was being sung in Riyadh. According to a statement out on the official Saudi media Friday morning, the Foreign Ministry had determined “the manner, the mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities toward preserving international peace and security as required.” The statement went on to say that Saudi Arabia “announces its apology for not accepting membership of the Security Council until the Council is reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security.”
In turning down the seat, the kingdom took swipes not only at the Council’s actions on Syria, saying it had allowed “the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by the chemical weapons, while the world stands idly, without applying deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime,” but also for failing to find a “just and lasting solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Riyadh had expressed its displeasure with the U.N. last month when it turned down the opportunity to speak at the General Assembly, again citing Syria. Saudi Arabia has also reportedly been angered by its ally — and permanent UNSC member — the United States’ choice to not attack Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons in August and for its recent signs of rapproachment with its arch-rival Iran.