View of the United Nations Security Council discussing the conflict in Syria, on August 30, 2012 (AFP)
UNITED NATIONS: Saudi Arabia yesterday won a UN Security Council seat for the first time in a new show of determination to make its voice heard, joining Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria in taking places on the key body.
All five countries stood unopposed in an election by the 193- member UN General Assembly. They will replace Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo on the 15-nation council on January 1.
Saudi has never competed for a place on the council which has a key role pronouncing on conflicts such as that in Syria. The kingdom has several times expressed alarm at what it considers international inaction on Syria.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal refused to speak or hand out a copy of his speech at the General Assembly in September out of anger over the council deadlock on Syria and Palestine.
“It was a sign of the frustration felt,” said Nawaf Obaid, a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center and adviser to Saudi officials. “There is a conscious decision to be more aggressive and vocal on the international stage.”
The kingdom, which takes over from Pakistan as an Asia-Pacific representative, deliberately held back from standing for the council in the past. But it wants to be “a voice” for those worried about Assad in Syria, Iran and other issues, Obaid said.
A senior council diplomat welcomed the election of Saudi Arabia — a key Middle East country — as the world attempts to bring to an end the two-and-a-half-year-old civil war in Syria that has killed more than 100,000.
“Our election today is a reflection of a long-standing policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes in peaceful means,” said Saudi Ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Al Mouallimi, after the vote.
He told reporters that Saudi supported the Syrian struggle for “freedom and prosperity and unity.” “We look forward to working with the rest of the international community to help our Syrian brothers achieve their objectives,” he added.
Five countries have permanent seats on the Security Council — the US, Britain, France, Russia and China. The other 10 seats are awarded for two-year periods by the General Assembly, which holds a vote every year for five of the seats. This year was the first time since 2009 that there has not been a contested seat.
Saudi is also campaigning to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Agencies