The United Nations General Assembly has elected Jordan as a non-permanent member of the Security Council to fill a seat that Saudi Arabia had, in an earlier election, won but declined to accept.
Jordan, endorsed by the African and Asian regional group, was elected to serve on the Council for two-years beginning on 1 January 2014. The country will be seated alongside Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria, which the Assembly elected on 17 October.
Saudi Arabia was also elected in the October vote, but shortly thereafter began to signal it would not accept the position. In a 12 November statement annexed to a letter from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Saudi Foreign Ministry formally confirmed that stance.
In that statement, the Ministry apologized for its non-acceptance, explaining that the country could not serve on the Council until the body is “reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security.” The Kingdom nevertheless reaffirmed its commitment to the UN and the goals of the Organization.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that the manner, mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the [Council] prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards preserving international peace and security as required, leading to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against peoples, the violation of rights and the spread of conflicts and wars around the world,” the statement continues.
The Foreign Ministry cited the situation of the Palestinian cause, lacking a just and lasting solution for 65 years, as “irrefutable evidence and proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties and assume its responsibilities. It also laments the Council’s “failure …to make the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction.”
Finally, the ministry said that “allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people with chemical weapons while the world stands idly by, without applying deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime, is also irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities.”
In light of those concerns, Saudi Arabia, “on the basis of its historical responsibilities towards its people, Arab and Islamic nations as well as towards the peoples aspiring to peace and stability all over the world, announces its apology for not accepting membership in the Security Council,” the statement concludes.
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.