October 18, 2013 2:15 pm

Saudi Arabia snubs UN over ‘double standards’ on Syria

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The United Nations Security Council conducts a meeting on small arms, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)©AP

In a rare diplomatic snub to the international community, Saudi Arabia has declined to take a seat on the United Nations Security Council because of what it described as “double standards”.

The announcement came hours after Saudi Arabia was elected for the first time to one of the 10 rotating seats on the Security Council.

Announcing the decision on Friday, Riyadh said the global body had failed to protect the Syrian people or to resolve the Palestinian issue.

“It is unfortunate that all the international efforts that have been exerted in recent years and in which Saudi Arabia actively took part did not result in achieving the reforms necessary to enable the Security Council to restore its role in serving peace and security worldwide,’’ the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace.”

The move may reflect a shift in the conservative kingdom’s foreign policy in a country that honours international protocol to a fault and usually keeps criticism behind closed doors. Saudi Arabia has seemed exasperated with the west, particularly the Obama administration in Washington, for averting a military strike against the regime of Bashar al-Assad after reaching a deal with Russia to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

In Friday’s statement, Riyadh slammed the security council for failing to punish or deter the Assad regime after it allegedly used chemical weapons against its own people.

It also said the council had failed to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past six decades and had failed to free the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction.

The kingdom, a key western ally and the bulwark of stability in the oil-rich, volatile Gulf region, is also unhappy at the recent thaw in relations between the west and Iran after the election of the centrist president, Hassan Rouhani.

The Security Council has been divided on how to deal with the civil war in Syria. Western countries pressed for stronger sanctions against the Assad regime which Russia vetoed. Saudi Arabia has been arming the rebels in that conflict.

The US, Britain, France, Russia and China are permanent members of the Security Council and hold veto powers. Other states are brought on to the body on a two-year rotating basis.

Saudi Arabia said it would not take up its seat on the Security Council until reforms were introduced.

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