|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Relations
with Host Country
241st Meeting (AM)
HOST COUNTRY DELEGATE DENIES INCREASE IN NUMBER OF TRAFFIC TICKETS ISSUED
TO DIPLOMATIC VEHICLES IS DRIVEN BY FINANCIAL CRISIS
The Committee on Relations with the Host Country today considered, among other things, an alleged increase in the number of parking tickets issued to diplomatic vehicles and special airport screening procedures for some diplomats.
Opening that discussion, the representative of France said his country’s Mission had been receiving more tickets because the driver picking up the Permanent Representative at his Park Avenue residence often had to wait “a couple of minutes”, with the motor running, in a traffic lane next to parked cars. Since other Missions had also seen an increase in the number of tickets issued, the matter could be viewed as a form of harassment. A possible solution would be to establish diplomatic parking spaces close to the residence of Permanent Representatives.
Voicing similar concerns, the representative of Cyprus said her Permanent Representative also lived on Park Avenue and the tickets were often issued by the same officer, who seemed to wait for the moment when the diplomatic car pulled up to the residence. The officer refused to talk to the driver or listen to any explanation, a form of treatment that was “inappropriate”.
Also raising complaints were the representatives of Bulgaria and Mongolia, who questioned the legality of mailing the tickets to their respective Permanent Missions, noting that the practice particularly hampered the functioning of small Missions.
The representative of the Russian Federation added that, according to local media, the problem did not concern diplomats alone, but the entire population of New York City. According to news reports, there had been an inexplicable increase in the number of parking tickets issued in order to raise extra revenue for the city in the current financial crisis. If that was indeed the case, the situation was unacceptable. Commercial vehicles were exempt from certain parking regulations when loading or unloading; rather than being inflexible about possible violations of traffic law, responsible officers should apply common sense.
In his response, the representative of the United States cautioned delegates against placing too much credibility in certain newspapers, and categorically rejected claims that officers were issuing more tickets in order to generate income for the city. The New York City Commissioner for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol had assured the United States Mission that the matter would be examined carefully.
Trilateral meetings involving the Missions in question, the Commissioner and the United States Mission could be organized to address the matter, he continued, adding that the city had removed residential parking signs for Permanent Representatives and Consuls General in 2002 because it had not been able to guarantee such additional diplomatic parking spaces. However, the host country and the host city were committed to implementing the Parking Programme.
Marjorie Tiven, New York City Commissioner for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol, who attended today’s meeting as an observer, said the Missions concerned had not brought the issues raised to her attention, and if they contacted her, she would be happy to respond immediately.
Turning to airport screening procedures, Libya’s representative said he understood that the marking of certain boarding passes at John F. Kennedy International Airport, including those of some diplomats, might be related to issues of security. What was the reason for issuing such boarding passes and what steps could the Libyan Mission take in order to avoid a repetition?
The representative of the United States explained that the “SSSS” marking of boarding passes was a computer generated security measure. The United States Mission had been trying to find out how the system worked, but had been told that the very answering of that question would render the whole system ineffective. However, diplomatic personnel in the United States could be helped through airport security procedures by contacting a supervisor with the Transportation and Security Administration and showing their diplomatic passports and United Nations identification cards.
Taking issue with that suggestion, however, Iran’s representative said that despite following that procedure, his colleagues were still subjected to the measures provoked by the SSSS marking. When approached, the Transportation and Security Administration supervisor would merely apologize and say nothing could be done about it. Although nobody was exempt from routine screening at airports, the SSSS marking provoked extra screening, but that applied only to members of some Missions, which was discriminatory.
The representative of the United States responded by saying that, when such an incident occurred, the diplomat concerned should immediately contact the United States Mission so that the situation could be resolved. Nobody, however, even diplomats, could be exempted from airport security screening.
Under other matters, China’s representative expressed satisfaction that the host country and host city authorities had improved the safety and security of residences, but raised concerns about the issuance of drivers’ licences to non-diplomatic Mission personnel and implementation of a new state law restoring restitution of paid fuel taxes.
The host country representative explained that the Office in the Department of State had decided that non-diplomatic members of Missions were no longer eligible for State Department drivers’ licences, but if anybody in that category had trouble acquiring a state licence, the Office of Foreign Missions would provide assistance.
As for fuel taxes, he said that, now that the United States Government owned some 40 per cent of Citicorp, which issued Exxon and Mobil credit cards, the question of restitution of fuel taxes through credit cards, which had initially met some resistance, would be resolved soon. Missions could also request retroactive tax abatement for fuel taxes paid between the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2009.
Uruguay’s representative noted that General Assembly resolution A/RES/63/8 had declared United Nations Headquarters a smoke-free zone. As the Organization’s Headquarters was one of the most important places in New York City where smoking was not been banned, what was the status of the resolution’s implementation?
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