Saudi Arabia snubs seat on UN Security Council - hours after winning coveted place

Russia 'baffled by the reasons that the kingdom gave to explain its position'

US Editor

Astonishing the diplomatic community in New York, Saudi Arabia announced last night that it would not be taking up a seat on the United Nations Security Council just one day after being elected to the body for two years.

In an unprecedented about-face, the Kingdom abruptly changed its mind about taking one of the Council’s 10 non-permanent seats in protest at its failure to respond decisively to conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.

Aside from Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China which occupy the five permanent seats, other nations normally fall over one another to win election to the Council for a two-year, non-permanent term in the belief membership of the club afford them prestige and  a larger voice on the world stage if only fleetingly.

Saudi Arabia was one of five countries picked to join the body on Thursday. After the vote Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said his government took it “very seriously” and saw it as “a reflection of a longstanding policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes in peaceful means.”

But either Mr Al-Mouallimi had missed a memo for Riyadh or something happened in the intervening hours that changed his government’s mind. A statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Friday excoriated the Council for failing on multiple fronts, not just with the Syrian conflict but also in resolving Israeli-Palestinian tensions and ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction.  It therefore would not be taking the seat, it said.

The statement cited the body’s “inability to perform its duties” to end the war in Syria, saying its failure has enabled President Bashar Assad’s regime “to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment.” The Syrian regime denies using chemical weapons.

The snub may also reflect growing irritation with the United States, with which it has for so long be so closely tied.  Saudi Arabia was angered by President Barack Obama backing off military strikes against Syria and has been clearly unsettled by what may be a thawing of the ice between the US and Iran, its arch rival in the region.

Russia last night said it was “surprised” and “baffled by the reasons that the kingdom gave to explain its position” and noted the headway now being made by the UN on ridding Syria of chemical weapons.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam