Filed Under:

Saudi Act Of Protest Stuns U.N., And Some Observers

Play associated audio

Known for quiet diplomacy, Saudi Arabia is taking an unusual and very public step to protest the international community's failure to resolve the crisis in Syria and other issues that interest Riyadh.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia was elected to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, which the Saudi ambassador to the U.N. initially called a defining moment in his nation's history.

But then the kingdom decided to reject — at least for now — the two-year rotating seat on the Security Council, calling the body incapable of ending wars and resolving conflicts.

"It certainly would seem that their ambassador to the United Nations was sandbagged by his own foreign ministry," says Tom Lippman, an expert on Saudi Arabia at the Middle East Institute in Washington. He calls the decision self-defeating, given Saudi concerns about Syria, its rivalry with Iran and its hopes for a future state of Palestine.

"The reason you would want to be on the U.N. Security Council is that eventually that's the arena in which these issues are going to be resolved, or in which the solutions of these issues are going to be ratified," says Lippman. "Why then would you not want to be in the arena where the game is being played? I don't get it."

Saudi Arabia explained in a statement that it believes the Security Council is failing to carry out its responsibilities. It hasn't resolved the Palestinian question, and it has stood by — according to the Saudi statement — while Syria's regime killed and burned people with chemical weapons.

Riyadh said it won't take the seat until the Security Council is reformed. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he wants to work closely with Saudi Arabia on all these issues. A spokesman said he was unaware of another case where a nation turned down a coveted seat on the Security Council.

But Saudi Arabia had given hints of its displeasure with the U.N., and with U.S. foreign policy. During a recent meeting of the U.N. General Assembly — when Iran's new president was on a charm offensive that even resulted in a phone call from President Obama — Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called off his planned speech.

The Saudi foreign minister is due to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris this week as the U.S. tries to ease Saudi concerns.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

For A Female Banker At The Top Of Her Game, What Does It Take To Stay There?

In the film Equity, investment banker Naomi Bishop navigates the male-dominated world of Wall Street. Screenwriter Amy Fox discusses the film and her research, which included many interviews with women who worked on Wall Street.
NPR

Salvage Supperclub: A High-End Dinner In A Dumpster To Fight Food Waste

The ingredients — think wilted basil, bruised plums, garbanzo bean water — sound less than appetizing. Whipped together, they're a tasty meal that show how home cooks can use often-tossed foods.
NPR

LISTEN: At The DNC, We Asked Women Why They Were Voting For Clinton

We asked women — as young as 4 and as old as 77 — how much the weight of history factored into their decision.
NPR

Hackers Break Into Another Democratic Party Computer System

The DNC's congressional campaign arm is the latest hacking victim. Investigators say the breach is similar to other recent incidents and that they believe Russia is the likely culprit.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.