Saudi Arabia rejected its two-year-term seat on the United Nations Security Council last Friday over what it called “double standards” existing on the council.
The seat is considered a coveted opportunity for world engagement and a decline for participation is unprecedented. There has never been a country that has been elected and then subsequently rejected participation. Hence, the action is considered a bold statement. A position on the fifteen member U.N. council grants the right to vote on military action authorization, punitive sanctioning, and peacekeeping initiatives.
This stance has garnered the praise of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Arab allies, as well as Egypt. It comes in response to a 31-month old conflict in Syria, as permanent members of the council have repeatedly blocked measures to sanction and take action against the Syrian government.
Saudi Arabia backs the Sunni Rebels fighting the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, has encouraged a stronger stance toward the Iranian nuclear program, and have had disagreements with the U.S. on resolving the Isreali- Palestinian crises.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Paris on Monday to discuss this development. Though the U.S. and Saudis share similar concerns and goals about nuclear and chemical weapons non-proliferation, both nations have acknowledge that they disagree on what policies should be implemented.
A state department spokesperson expressed concern about the decision but stated that they will not attempt to persuade Saudi Arabia to change their position. “It does give you a voice even when you have frustrations,” the U.S. official said. “It’s their decision to make.”
According to Reuters, “the Saudi decision has handed the U.N. secretary-general and the permanent council members ‘historic responsibility to review the role of the United Nations, its powers and its charter,’ UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said. Bahrain praised Riyadh’s “clear and courageous stand”, while Qatar suggested it “could shake the world out of complacency.”