RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday turned down membership in the United Nations Security Council, accusing the powerful body of “double-standards” a day after it won a seat on it.
“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,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday won a UN Security Council seat for the first time, joining Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria in taking places on the key body.
All five countries stood unopposed in an election by the 193-member UN General Assembly. They will replace Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo on the 15-nation council on January 1.
Saudi Arabia, despite its oil power and standing in the Muslim world, has never competed for a place on the United Nations’ most powerful body which has a key role pronouncing on conflicts such as that in Syria.
The conservative kingdom has several times expressed alarm at what it considers international inaction over Syria. It has been a major backer of the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
The Saudi government also remains a fierce critic of Israel.
Saudi Arabia is seeking a more active role in key international bodies even though its own record on women’s rights and human rights has been criticized, according to diplomats and observers.
Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador Abdullah Al-Mouallimi said: “Our election today is a reflection of a long-standing policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes in peaceful means.”
He told reporters that Saudi Arabia supported the Syrian people’s struggle for “freedom and prosperity and unity.”
But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal refused to speak or even hand out a copy of his speech at the UN General Assembly in September in anger at Security Council deadlock on Syria and Palestine.
“It was a sign of the frustration felt,” said Nawaf Obaid, a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center and an advisor to Saudi officials.