RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected a seat on the U.N. Security Council to protest what it said was a lack of international efforts to end world conflicts.
“The kingdom believes that double standards in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards keeping peace and security in the world,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry stated.
It said it would not take the seat until “reforms were introduced to allow the Security Council to effectively perform its duties.”
Talking at U.N. Headquarters in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he has “taken note” of the media reports. However, he cautioned that he has not received an official notice from Saudi Arabia concerning the matter.
“Membership in the Security Council is a decision by member states,” Ban said.
Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for Ban, said that the case of a country rejecting a seat on the council seems to be unprecedented. If it was indeed the case, the General Assembly would have to decide on how to proceed to fill the seat.
“As far as we are aware, there isn’t another case like this,” Nesirky said.
The oil-rich kingdom, which was elected Thursday as a non-permanent member to replace Pakistan in representing the Asia-Pacific region, said the Security Council “allowed the Syrian regime to kill its people and burn them using chemical weapons.”
The five permanent, veto-wielding members of the 15-nation council had been deadlocked for months on any action over Syria and its 31-month civil war as Russia blocked statements even on humanitarian issues.
But on Sept. 27, the council unanimously approved a resolution ordering the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Saudi Arabia has backed the rebels fighting to oust the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Russia, one of the five veto powers on the council, called Saudi Arabia’s move to reject the seat “surprising.”
“With this decision, Saudi Arabia has distanced itself from the cooperation at the Security Council to protect international peace and security,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Moscow criticized the kingdom’s rationale for rejecting the seat, saying: “The allegations directed at the Security Council in context of the Syrian conflict sound especially strange, given that the council unanimously adopted a resolution.”
The Security Council seat would have been the first time Saudi Arabia would have had a place on the United Nations’ highest decision-making body.
Riyadh, a major power player in the Muslim world, also on Friday criticized the council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The continuation of the Palestinian issue without a just and lasting solution for 65 years … is clear evidence of the Security Council’s inability to perform its duties and carry out its responsibilities,” it said.
Saudi Arabia also said the Security Council had failed to make the Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction “because of its inability to put nuclear programs of all countries in the region, without exception, under surveillance and inspection” and had failed to prevent countries from pursuing nuclear weapons.