By Handan Kazanci & Ilgin Karlidag
ISTANBUL (AA) – World leaders in Istanbul have called for an urgent change to the United Nations Security Council, limiting the power of veto by its five permanent members, including Russia.
Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Hali told the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday: "Reform of the UN Security Council is urgently needed.
“The use of veto should be rationalized. There should be a departure from the approach of management of crisis … to depart from double standards in dealing with issues of peace and security and to prosecute those committing war crimes and crimes against humanity."
The Arab League consists of 22 member states, including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Ben Hali’s comments echoed those of summit host and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who on Monday said the UN Security Council must "urgently" change in order to fulfill its functions.
Each of the permanent members – Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States – have the power of veto, allowing them to block draft council resolutions – even when these have broad international support.
Erdogan called for the veto by the council’s five permanent members to be limited, a move which Russia – a permanent member of the UN Security Council – is against.
In 2012, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
The move sparked criticism worldwide and prevented substantial UN-backed action with regards to the Syrian civil war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declined his invitation to the Istanbul summit, the humanitarian news agency IRIN reported on May 10.
In his place, Putin sent a delegation, whose head, Russian Deputy Emergencies Minister Sergey Voronov, said on Tuesday that his country opposes any limitations to the power of veto by any permanent member of the Security Council.
According to James Nixey, the head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at London-based Chatham House, Putin’s non-attendance at the summit is not surprising.
“Vladimir Putin would be rather embarrassed at a world humanitarian summit considering the criticism his regime takes for its aggressive behavior abroad and its human rights record at home,” told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
“Russia views its veto as pure power, and there is zero chance that it would endorse any move to give up wielding such power, which it has used so effectively in the past,” he added.
Criticized internationally for its role in backing the Assad regime, Russia said in a statement obtained by IRIN that it "refuses to be bound by the results of a process it says failed to include its views".