UNITED NATIONS – Arab nations on Saturday called on Saudi Arabia to reverse a decision to reject a seat on the UN Security Council in protest at its handling of the Syria war.
Saudi Arabia’s leaders should “maintain their membership in the Security Council and continue their brave role in defending our issues specifically at the rostrum of the Security Council,” said a statement released by Arab envoys to the UN body.
The Arab ambassadors held emergency discussions after Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement Friday that it would not take up a Security Council seat because of the body’s “double standards” on Syria and other Middle East hotspots.
The ambassadors expressed “respect and understanding” for the “brotherly” Saudi position.
They added, however, that it was crucial for Saudi Arabia to represent the Arab and Muslim world on the council “at this important and historical stage, specifically for the Middle East region.”
Saudi Arabia won a prized two-year seat on the 15-nation Security Council in a UN General Assembly election on Thursday.
The conservative kingdom stunned the diplomatic world the following day, however, by blasting the council’s action on major issues such as Syria. The government said it would not take up its seat.
“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, calling for reforms of the council.
Many diplomats and analysts have said the Saudi protest was a message to the United States that it wanted a tougher stance on Syria and was angry that Washington had opened contacts with Iran.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s number one oil producer and a predominant Islamic power, is a major backer of Syrian opposition rebels and an arch-rival of the Iranian government.
If Saudi Arabia goes ahead with its threat, the Asia-Pacific group will have to find a new candidate to put to a UN General Assembly vote before January 1.
It has not yet sent an official letter to the United Nations, however. And Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, took part in discussions before the statement was released, diplomats said.
But senior UN envoys say the decision was almost certainly taken personally by King Abdullah or Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
They said it would be very difficult to persuade the 89-year-old monarch to go back on the rejection.
Last month, Prince Saud refused to speak or even hand out a copy of his speech at the UN General Assembly in front of world leaders. It was said to be a show of anger over Syria and the West’s move to start talks with Iran’s new president.
Saudi Arabia was elected to the council with Nigeria, Lithuania, Chad and Chile. All had stood unopposed in the election.