The head of the United Nations had no forewarning that Saudi Arabia would reject a seat on the U.N. Security Council, according to media reports, in a move that has left many other international powers scratching their heads.
Saudi Arabia refused one of the 10 non-permanent seats on the council after accusing the world of "double standards," citing inaction on the conflict in Syria among other international issues. In a statement, the Saudi government said it apologizes for declining the position.
The BBC reports Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the U.N., will not say whether he plans to discuss the issue further with Saudi King Abdullah.
"I understand that some member states, particularly some concerned group of member states, are discussing [this] among themselves," Ban said, according to the BBC.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was surprised by the move.
"In this way, Saudi Arabia has excluded itself from collective work within the Security Council to support international peace and security," the ministry said in a statement. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the council. "The kingdom's arguments arouse bewilderment and the criticism of the U.N. Security Council in the context of the Syrian conflict is particularly strange."
The Saudi delegation to the U.N. was noticeably displeased during the September General Assembly in which the U.S and Iran made substantial diplomatic overtures to one another for the first time in 20 years. Iran, believed to be hurting from years of sanctions, has indicated it is willing to forgo some of its nuclear enrichment activities and to prove it is willing to maintain only a peaceful nuclear program.
As a result, delegates from Saudi Arabia declined to address the General Assembly.
Most of its discontent has been aimed at the U.S., a longtime staunch ally and source of military aid, due to the Obama administration's handling of the ongoing crisis in Syria in recent weeks.
The U.N. had failed to act in response to Bashar Assad's deployment of chemical weapons, according to a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, as well as provide meaningful support to "the Palestinian cause."
The U.N. has been ineffective in its pursuit of peace and security in the world, the ministry said, according to a statement reported by its state news agency.
"Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by chemical weapons, while the world stands idly, without applying deterrent sanctions against Damascus regime, is also irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities," the statement said.