Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel decried on Wednesday Syria's election to the prestigious and powerful U.N. Security Council.
Syria was overwhelmingly voted onto the council by the General Assembly on Monday for two-year term as a rotating member of the 15-seat council. The vote marked the first time in more than 30 years that a country on the U.S. State Department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism, was elected to the council.
"The election of Syria to the U.N. Security Council is a complete distortion of the U.N. and its institutions," a Foreign Ministry official said by phone on Wednesday.
"Syria is a country supporting and helping terrorists and is harboring terrorist organizations," he said.
"The election of Syria is particularly absurd given that there is [currently] a worldwide campaign against terrorism," he added in reference to the U.S.-led international initiative.
Running unopposed, Syria saw the win as both a diplomatic triumph over Israel as well as an absolution from charges of state-sponsored terrorism.
"[Syria will] do its best to serve Arab and Islamic causes and just causes in the world," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency.
The ruling Ba'ath party said in its newspaper of the same name that the country had won "a great diplomatic and political victory" which would enable it to focus international attention on Israel instead of the Arab and Muslim world as it has been since the September 11 terrorism in the U.S.
"Israel tried to prevent Syria winning a Council seat" by accusing Damascus of supporting terrorism, the paper charged. "But the international community has thrown out the accusations."
Al-Ba'ath said that the vote proved "the just position of Syria which backs the fight against terrorism without confusing this phenomenon with resistance against occupation."
Israel's ambassador to the U.N. Yehuda Lancry called the vote "sheer absurdity." He charged that Syria's election had violated article 23 of the U.N. Charter, which states that countries are to become part of the council based on their "contribution to international peace and security."
But Dr. Eyal Zisser, of the Middle East Studies department at Tel Aviv University, said he didn't think the decision was of "any real importance" since those voting didn't have the choice of another country. "Most countries decided not to oppose it right now."
"It's unfortunate that a country involved in terrorist activities is now a member of the Security Council," Zisser said in a telephone interview.
Zisser said he believes that Syria will nevertheless be one of the next targets in the U.S.-led war against terrorism. "This will not give Syria immunity," he added.
Syria has not been involved in international terrorism since 1986, when Syrian representatives were involved in a plot to bomb an Israeli plane leaving London's Heathrow airport.
However, Damascus hosts the offices of many terrorist factions, which are on the State Department list of terrorist organization and thus indirectly supports them.