France suggests reforming veto power on Security Council

France suggests reforming veto power on Security Council

French Foreign Ministry says it shares in Saudi Arabia’s frustration over top UN body’s failure on the Syria issue

The chamber of the UN Security Council in New York City (photo credit: CC BY-SA Gruban/Flickr/File)
The chamber of the UN Security Council in New York City (photo credit: CC BY-SA Gruban/Flickr/File)

France shares in Saudi Arabia’s frustration over the UN Security Council’s failure in its duties with regard to Syria, according to a statement issued Friday by the French Foreign Ministry.

In an unprecedented move on Thursday, Saudi Arabia refused a rotating seat on the UN’s most powerful body, citing its inaction in Syria and failure in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In light of the Security Council’s stalemate on Syria — Russia and China have repeatedly blocked resolutions calling for the use of force against the Bashar Assad regime — France has suggested reforming the mighty veto power of the body’s five permanent members: the US, UK, France, Russia, and China.

The UN Security Council was reformed just once, in 1963, when four new nonpermanent seats were created, making a total of ten. The body’s ten nonpermanent members are elected for two-year rotations.

The US responded to the Saudi decision saying it would continue to work with Riyadh on major issues, but emphasized the importance of the Security Council.

“There’s no question the Security Council performs an important role in the world maintaining peace and security; recent evidence of that which I’ve referred to a few times speaks to that,” State Department spokeswomen Jen Psaki said. “In terms of what decision that the Saudis make, that’s up to them.”

Turkish President Abdullah Gul came out in support of the Saudi position on Friday, saying that the United Nations was losing much of its credibility, according to Israel Radio. Gul said the kingdom’s rejection of a Security Council seat was meant to garner the attention of the international community, and that it must be respected.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sharply criticized the Saudi decision on Friday.

In a statement, the ministry slammed the kingdom’s “strange” rationale, 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.

In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said Friday that 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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