Saudi Arabia rejected its seat on the UN Security Council and said the 15-member body is incapable of resolving world conflicts.
The move came just hours after the kingdom was elected as one of the Council’s 10 non-permanent members for the first time in its history.
In a statement carried on Friday by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Foreign Ministry says the Council has failed in its duties toward Syria.
It says this alleged failure enabled Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to perpetrate the killings of its people, including with chemical weapons, without facing any deterrents or punishment.
The Ministry also says the Council has not been able to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past decades and has failed to transform the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
Saudi Arabia was elected along with Chad, Nigeria, Lithuania and Chile by the UN General Assembly to serve as non-permanent member on the
Security Council for two-year terms beginning on 1 January 2014.
The five countries obtained the required two-thirds majority of those Member States present and voting in the 193-member Assembly. Elected in one round of secret balloting, they had to replace Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo, whose terms will conclude at the end of this year.
The five permanent Council members, which each wield the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Non-permanent members Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea and Rwanda will remain on the Council until the end of 2014.
Under the UN Charter, the 15-member Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and all Member States are obligated to comply with its decisions.
In addition, the Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls on the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.
In some cases, it can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
But the veto system has paralysed in fact a lot of resolutions aimed to stop conflicts because of the conflicts of interests between the countries holding the right to veto decisions, often divided in two blocks: usually the US with the UK and France in one side and Russia and China in the other side. When there is an important issue the decision is in the hands of the permanent members and the non-permanent members have nothing to do but to express their opinion if some of the permanent members decide to veto a vote. That happened with the two cases cited by Saudi Arabia: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian war.
In the last General Assembly several world leaders called for a reform of the Security Council. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera called last september for profound reform of the United Nations Security Council, increasing its membership, abandoning the veto enjoyed by the five current permanent members, and instituting a super-majority rule for the adoption of major decisions.
“We join in the appeals to countries with the right of veto to refrain from exercising that right in situations of crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide or ethnic cleansing, since doing so prevents the Council from effectively defending the most fundamental values and principles of mankind,” he told the General Assembly on the first day of its annual General Debate. After him other Presidents and Prime Ministers called on a reform of the Security Council with similar proposals.