UN Security Council
UN Security Council AFP photo

Arab nations on Saturday appealed to Saudi Arabia to reverse its decision to reject a seat on the United Nations Security Council, AFP reported.

Arab UN ambassadors made the appeal after an emergency meeting on Saudi Arabia's surprise announcement Friday that it would not take up a Security Council seat to protest the body's handling of the Syria war and other conflicts.

Saudi Arabia's leaders should “maintain their membership in the Security Council and continue their brave role in defending our issues specifically at the rostrum of the Security Council,” said a statement released by Arab states at the UN and quoted by AFP.

The statement expressed “respect and understanding” for the Saudi position.

It added, however, that it was crucial for Saudi Arabia to represent the Arab and Muslim world on the council “at this important and historical stage, specifically for the Middle East region.”

Saudi Arabia won a prized two year seat on the 15 nation Security Council in a UN General Assembly election on Thursday.

The government stunned the world the following day however by accusing the Council of “double standards” in handling conflicts such as the 32-month-old Syria war.

Many diplomats and analysts have said the Saudi protest was a message to the United States that it wanted a tougher stance on Syria and was angry that Washington had opened contacts with Iran.

Saudi Arabia, the world's number one oil producer and a predominant Islamic power, is a major backer of Syrian opposition rebels and arch-rival of the Iranian government.

Its withdrawal from the council term starting on January 1 means that the Asia-Pacific group will have to find a new candidate for a new vote by the UN General Assembly unless the Saudis change their mind.

Saudi Arabia was elected to the council with Nigeria, Lithuania, Chad and Chile. All had stood unopposed in the election.

UN Watch, the Geneva-based NGO, had welcomed Saudi Arabia's refusal to take its seat on the UN Security Council and said it was a “victory for human rights.”

The organization cited Saudi Arabia’s own record of violation of human rights, such as banning women from driving, along with its being the world's largest source of funds for Islamist terrorist groups.

Israel recently announced it plans to run for a rotating seat on the UN Security Council for the first time ever for 2019-2020. It will be vying against Germany and Belgium. Technically, Israel should be a member of the same Asia-Pacific Group that Saudi Arabia is, but it has been blocked from that group by Muslim states.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has pledged to lobby hard to get Israel a seat on the Security Council, but nevertheless it is believed that Israel will have a hard time winning the seat most members nations of the UN are either cool or openly hostile towards Israel.