By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations General Assembly elected Italy to fill the final U.N. Security Council seat for 2017 on Wednesday after voting between Italy and The Netherlands was deadlocked and the pair agreed to split the two-year term on the council.
Italy has pledged to step down after one year to allow The Netherlands to be elected to the council by the 193-member General Assembly for 2018. The countries vowed to work closely together during the full two-year term.
The General Assembly elected Sweden, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Bolivia on Tuesday to replace Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela on the council beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. But the Netherlands and Italy were tied with 95 votes each.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said there had been previous cases of countries sharing terms on the Security Council, citing five occasions in the 1950s and 1960s.
"It's less than ideal," said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Broadly speaking, non-permanent members perform more strongly in their second year."
Countries need more than two-thirds of the vote to win a seat. Italy was elected with 179 in favor.
The council is made up of 10 elected members - five voted on each year and five permanent veto-powers: the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia. The council is the only U.N. body that can make legally binding decisions and has the power to impose sanctions and authorize the use of force.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)