WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Paris on Monday, where the two allies discussed growing policy rifts over Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would reject an opportunity to sit on the United Nations Security Council, slamming the body for holding “double standards” on a host of issues in the region including the Syrian crisis, the pursuit of a nuclear-free Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all praised the decision as a brave rebuke of a broken system on Monday. But the kingdom may be avoiding the coveted seat in order to avoid public spats with the US or Russia.
“You risk getting tainted with decisions, every time there’s a vote,” says Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“And if it’s unhappy with the United States, it doesn’t necessarily want to vote with the United States.”
Riyadh officials are frustrated with recent US overtures toward the government in Tehran, and with Washington’s swift acceptance of a Russian-brokered deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile, which it sees as a tacit acceptance of Bashar Assad’s position as president.
“It’s particularly embarrassing at the moment, because the Saudis really don’t agree with US policy on Iran, and they want to make it clear that they don’t agree,” Henderson added.
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