The Netherlands' highest administrative court has refused to wade into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around "Black Pete," the sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus.

Opponents call Pete, who is often played by white people wearing black-face makeup and a frizzy Afro wig, a racist caricature. Most Dutch people insist he is a harmless fantasy figure.

The Council of State on Wednesday overturned a lower court's decision that Amsterdam municipality shouldn't have allowed last year's festive arrival of Sinterklaas in the city because Pete "forms a negative stereotyping of black people."

Council of State president Jaap Polak didn't rule on the issue of whether Pete is discriminatory. Instead, he said Amsterdam's mayor isn't empowered to take the issue into account when granting permits for the celebrations.