|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Relations
with Host Country
227th Meeting (AM)
HOST COUNTRY COMMITTEE CONSIDERS ISSUES RELATED TO TRANSIT STRIKE TRAFFIC
DISRUPTION, TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS, ENTRY VISAS, DIPLOMATIC PARKING
The Committee on Relations with the Host Country met this morning to consider questions relating to traffic disruptions caused by last month’s transit strike, travel restrictions on United Nations staff of certain nationalities, entry visas for officials attending meetings at Headquarters and diplomatic parking spaces.
Committee Chairman Andreas Mavroyiannis (Cyprus) told the meeting that since the last meeting, held on 28 October 2005, the Secretariat had issued documents A/AC.154/364 and A/AC.154/365 regarding measures imposed by the New York City authorities in connection with the three-day transit strike (20 to 22 December). Margaret Tiven, New York City Commissioner, and Bradfort E. Billet, New York Deputy Commissioner for the United Nations and Consular Corps, were attending today’s meeting at the request of the host country delegation.
Regarding travel restrictions, he informed the Committee that the United States Mission had lifted the entire notification requirement applicable to United Nations staff members of Vietnamese nationality and their families for travel beyond 25 miles of Columbus Circle in New York City. The host country had communicated that decision in a diplomatic note to the Secretariat dated 3 January 2006.
Maria Zabolotskaya ( Russian Federation) said that, while the lifting of that requirement for staff from Viet Nam was a positive signal, her delegation hoped that restrictions on other countries would be reduced and eventually eliminated. Regarding last December’s measures during the transit strike that required four people per car south of 96th Street in Manhattan, they had made the work of Russian Mission staff more difficult because they lived in a compound outside Manhattan, while their Mission was on 67th Street. The host country was expected to allow exemptions for diplomatic staff in such cases.
Laila Taj El Dine ( Venezuela), who attended the meeting as an observer, said the host country should make special provisions for diplomatic civil servants when the city imposed such restrictions. There should be a minimum level of security for diplomats, so that they would not be forced to take total strangers into their vehicles when travelling to work. Such prerequisites should not be imposed, especially upon those living outside Manhattan.
Sergei Rachkov (Belarus), who also attended as an observer, expressed concern over the host country’s failure to issue an entry visa for Nikolai Cherganitz, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee on International Affairs and International Security, to travel to New York for a number of meetings at United Nations Headquarters, although his application had been sent in good time to the United States Embassy in Minsk. The Embassy had expressed its unwillingness to provide a visa, in violation of section 11 of the Host Country Agreement.
Cheick Sidi Diarra ( Mali), raising the parking question, said his country’s Mission had recently faced difficulties with renovations being carried out in front of its 69th Street offices. In addition, the delegation of Mali had been granted a reduced number of decals compared to 2004, despite its request for a similar number. The Mission had not been satisfied with the reasons given for the reduction, and had also been subjected to a number of perplexing questions. The Mission hoped that additional parking facilities would be provided, since it had previously had reserved parking spaces and there was no dispute between Mali and the City of New York.
Mhd. Najib Elji ( Syria), another observer, said the Committee was not making the necessary efforts to settle the problems facing diplomats at the United Nations. The same parking problems of the past had still not been settled, and the failure to renew parking permits for cars that had been issued with tickets was contrary to the Host Country Agreement. That had led to a two-month delay in the renewal of a delegation member’s licence plates. Regarding the transit strike, many exemptions had been granted to diplomats bearing normal licence plates, while others, especially those living outside Manhattan, had been unable to travel to work because they lacked the required number of passengers.
Russell Graham (United States), responding to the representative of the Russian Federation, said that traffic disruptions were covered under section 17a of the Headquarters Agreement, while a different section stipulated that the host country must treat the United Nations and the United Nations community in the same manner as other important elements of the United States Government. There had been no special provisions made for United States Mission staff or members of the city governments.
Regarding the statement by the representative of Belarus, he said that Mr. Nikolai Cherganitz had applied to attend an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) session, as well as 70 days of General Assembly meetings. However, according to information received, he had engaged in somewhat questionable activities during previous meetings. The need for analysis of his visa application had delayed its issuance, but it had not been denied, although the delay had meant he could not attend the IPU session. However, instead of waiting to have the visa issued, he had asked for the return of his passport, saying he no longer intended to travel. The passport had been returned on 15 November with a note that the visa was approved until 2007.
Ms. Tiven, New York City Commissioner, reiterated, with regard to the transit strike, that there had been no exceptions for members of the federal, state or city governments, and if anybody had seen or heard of any, the only reasonable explanation would be that it would be a police officer reporting for duty. Also, the City Commission had the responsibility to implement the parking programme, and missions should report to it any particular problems facing them.
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