UNITED NATIONS – Saudi Arabia’s angry rejection of a Security Council seat one day after winning it is a first for the United Nations, stunning members of the body Friday, October 18.
Russia sharply criticized Saudi Arabia for rejecting the membership, slamming the kingdom’s “strange” argument that the body had failed over the Syria conflict.
“We are surprised by Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented decision,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “The kingdom’s arguments arouse bewilderment and the criticism of the UN Security Council in the context of the Syria conflict is particularly strange,” it added.
But diplomats said there had been no official notice from Riyadh of its refusal to take up the seat on January 1. It was possible the conservative kingdom could change its mind, they added.
“This is totally unexpected. We all had to look into the council history for a precedent and there is not one,” said a Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Campaigning and securing a seat normally takes years of preparation which makes the announcement even more surprising.”
Saudi Arabia was one of 5 nations elected by the UN General Assembly to start a two-year term on the 15-member Security Council. The others included Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria. All had stood unopposed.
“There was nothing controversial about the election. But the government has made it clear in recent weeks that it is concerned about Syria and the Palestine issue,” said a second UN diplomat.
“They will have to write to set out their official position and then the UN will have to decide the next step,” the envoy added.
“There could be a new election, but it is possible that Saudi Arabia can be persuaded to change its stance.”
The United Nations secretariat and UN General Assembly president had no immediate comment.
Saudi Arabia won a seat for the first time in Thursday’s election.
“Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement explaining its move.
“Therefore Saudi Arabia… has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsibilities in preserving the world’s peace and security,” it added.
‘France shares Saudi Arabia frustration’
France said shared Saudi Arabia’s frustration over “double-standards” in resolving world conflicts, namely Syria.
“We have an ongoing dialogue on the subject of Syria with Saudi Arabia. We share its frustration after the Security Council’s paralysis,” French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said, noting that France is proposing reforms to the council’s veto rights. – Rappler.com
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