Saudi Arabia rejects seat on U.N. council
Saudi Arabia’s about-face was a stunning rebuke of the Security Council, especially after the recent breakthrough in getting the unanimous approval of the 15-member council on a plan to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
Los Angeles Times
A day after the United Nations elected Saudi Arabia to a seat on the Security Council, the Saudi leadership refused to accept the position and lashed out at the world body for “double standards” and a failure to protect peace.
It was a stunning rebuke of the Security Council, said diplomats and academics, especially after the recent breakthrough in getting the unanimous approval of the 15-member council on a plan to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
The Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, on Thursday hailed the nation’s election to the two-year stint as recognition of the country’s “long-standing policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes by peaceful means.”
On Friday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said it was rejecting the seat and issued a bitter denunciation of the council’s failure over 65 years to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its refusal to ensure a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, an apparent reference to Israel, which is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal.
“Allowing 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, is also irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. Such a decision could have been made only with King Abdullah’s approval.
“Saudi Arabia believes that the manner, the mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards preserving international peace and security as required,” the government said.
The reversal surprised U.N. diplomats and officials who had just welcomed the kingdom to a two-year term on the U.N.’s most powerful body for the first time. Several noted that the Saudis were lobbying for support right up until the vote.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at U.N. headquarters in New York that he had “taken note” of reports of the Saudi rejection but had not received an official notification of the rejection as of late Friday.
One Saudi diplomat said the decision had come after weeks of high-level debate about the usefulness of a seat on the Security Council, where Russia and China have repeatedly drawn Saudi anger by blocking all attempts to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside.
Abdullah has voiced rising frustration with the continuing violence in Syria, a fellow Muslim-majority nation where one of his wives was born. He is said to have been deeply disappointed when President Obama decided against airstrikes on Syria’s military in September in favor of a Russian-proposed agreement to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.
“What an extraordinary outburst from the Saudi government against the U.N. Security Council,” said William Keylor, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
“I can only imagine that it reflects some kind of power struggle within the Saudi leadership. The way it was done, in a really quite strong denunciation of the Security Council, as far as I can recall is unprecedented.”
Material from The New York Times and The Associated Press is included in this report.