UNITED NATIONS - In a symbolic gesture for European unity, Italy and the Netherlands have proposed to split a two-year term on the UN Security Council , after the two countries tied in a tight race for a non-permanent seat on the 15-member Council, the world body's power centre.

The proposal came on Tuesday, after five rounds of voting at the 193-member UN General Assembly, where neither of the countries could attain the two-thirds majority vote needed.

Each received 95 votes in the last round.

In earlier voting, Bolivia and Ethiopia - both running unopposed - and Kazakhstan and Sweden secured their two-year Council mandates in the most contested elections in years.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that the proposal of a shared seat was symbolic because it was a "message of unity between two European countries".

The elected countries will begin a two-year stint on the Council on January 1, taking their seats alongside the five permanent Council members - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.

The other five non-permanent members are: Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security, with all UN Member States required to comply with Council decisions. The Council’s 10 non-permanent seats are allocated according to a rotation pattern set by the Assembly in 1963, to ensure a proportionate representation over time from the different parts of the world: five from African and Asian States; one from Eastern European States; two from Latin American States; and two from Western European and other States.

At Tuesday's election, the General Assembly members voted by secret ballot for five seats divided by geographical grouping – three from Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, one from Eastern Europe, and one from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bolivia and Ethiopia were chosen by their regional groups and had no competitors. Kazakhstan won the seat reserved for Asia Pacific against Thailand while Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden had competed for two seats for Western Europe.

The newly-elected countries will replace Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Angola and Venezuela.

The Security Council has 15 members, including five permanent.

The five permanent members, each with the power of veto, are: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other current non-permanent members are Japan, Egypt, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.

The Security Council is also responsible for determining the existence of a threat against peace and to respond to an act of aggression.

It is also responsible for finding peaceful means to settle a conflict or a dispute between States. In some cases, the Council can resort to sanctions or even authorise the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary General and the admission of new members to the United Nations.