The US does not agree with its allies on every single issue, the State Department said Friday, hours after Saudi Arabia announced it was rejecting a United Nations Security Council seat to which it was elected Thursday.
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Saudi Arabia was going to “make their own decision” and that the US will continue to work with the Kingdom on “a range of issues.”
“We think the UN does important work. The evidence of course is just a few weeks ago with the UNSC resolution [on destroying Syria's chemical weapons] and these steps moving the removal of CW forward. But beyond that, we will continue to work with Saudi Arabia on a range of issues,” Psaki said Friday.
In a statement carried Friday by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said the Security Council has failed in its duties toward Syria.
The statement also said the UNSC has not been able to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past six decades and has failed to transform the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction — a reference to Israel, which has never confirmed or denied possession of nuclear weapons.
On Syria, the foreign ministry claimed that UN inaction had enabled Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to perpetrate the killings of its people, including with chemical weapons, without facing any punishment. The Syrian regime denies it has used chemical weapons in the war.
The kingdom, which has backed the Syrian rebels in their struggle to topple Assad, has often criticized the international community for failing to halt Syria’s civil war, now in its third year. According to UN figures, the conflict has so far killed over 100,000 people.
Saudi Arabia is also frustrated that the US backed away from launching punitive strikes against Assad’s forces after Damascus agreed to allow inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.
“Saudi Arabia has been an important partner on Syria; they will continue to be,” said Psaki.
Earlier Friday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sharply criticized Saudi Arabia for its unprecedented move of rejecting a two-year seat on the UN’s most powerful body.
In a statement, the ministry slammed the kingdom’s “strange” rationale that the UN Security Council had failed in its handling of the civil war in Syria, reported AFP.
“We are surprised by Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented decision,” the statement read.
“The kingdom’s arguments arouse bewilderment and the criticism of the UN Security Council in the context of the Syria conflict is particularly strange,” the ministry added.
Saudi Arabia’s rejection of its freshly-acquired seat came just hours after the kingdom was elected as one of the Council’s 10 nonpermanent members on Thursday night. It also followed another gesture of displeasure from the kingdom in which Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declined to address the General Assembly meeting last month.
The kingdom easily won the Security Council seat in a vote in New York on Thursday, facing no opposition because there were no contested races for the first time in several years. The Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security, in places like Syria, Iran and North Korea, as well as the UN’s far-flung peacekeeping operations.
The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms.
After the vote, Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said his country’s election was “a reflection of a longstanding policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes by peaceful means.”
But the statement from Riyadh on Friday struck a dramatically different tone.
“Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment is clear proof and evidence of the UN Security Council’s inability to perform its duties and shoulder its responsibilities,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters he had not received any official notification about the Saudi rejection, and said member states are holding discussions on how to deal with the Saudi move. There was speculation about whether they might recant, but several diplomats said they doubt it after such a dramatic announcement.