Jordan will replace Saudi Arabia on the UN Security Council for a two-year term starting in January after Riyadh’s unprecedented rejection of the seat hours after it was elected, a UN diplomat said on Thursday.
The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal was made privately, said Jordanian Representative to the UN Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein was flying to Amman on Thursday night to discuss Jordan’s new role on the organization’s most powerful body.
Earlier this week, Jordan dropped its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, leaving Saudi Arabia a clear path in the now uncontested election on Tuesday.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights organization, said: “It is appalling that seats on the world’s top human rights body are being traded like merchandise, treated as trinkets by non-democracies.”
The UN General Assembly, which voted on Oct. 17 to give Saudi Arabia the seat traditionally reserved for an Arab nation on the council, will have to formally approve Jordan as a replacement. Since Jordan is almost certain to be the only candidate, its election is virtually assured.
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stunned the diplomatic world with the announcement that it was rejecting the seat less than 24 hours after it was elected. Riyadh issued a scathing attack on the council’s failures to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Syria, and to convene a conference on creating a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
The rejection appeared largely directed at longtime ally the US. The oil giant and the world’s superpower are at odds over several Mideast issues, particularly the crises in Egypt and Syria. It also comes as ties between the US and Iran, Riyadh’s regional foe, appear to be improving.
Jordan has been a key behind-the-scenes player in efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jordan also shares a border with Syria and has become a major destination for refugees fleeing the civil war. According to the UN Human Rights Commission, Jordan had 250,000 Syrian refugees in January and is expected to have 432,500 next month, second only to Turkey.
In April, Prince Zeid sent a letter to the council saying the refugee crisis had sparked “a grave humanitarian situation” that threatens the country.
In August, King Abdullah warned that ethnic and sectarian violence sweeping across several Arab countries could lead to the “destruction” of the Muslim world. The civil war in Syria has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone, pitting predominantly Sunni rebels against a regime dominated by an offshoot of Shiite Islam, which is allied with Shiite-majority Iran.
Diplomats from a number of countries had tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to change its mind and take the seat, arguing that it could achieve more inside the council than outside, but Riyadh refused.