The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today in an organizational meeting but refrained from adopting its agenda and programme of work for the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly after the Russian Federation protested the refusal by the United States, the host country, to issue visas to members of its delegation.
Its Chair, Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia), adjourned the meeting to allow time for consultations between delegations, the Secretariat and the President of the General Assembly on a way forward. He added that delegations will be contacted via the proper channels regarding the next step.
“This is not the way we were hoping to begin the work of the Committee,” he said. While acknowledging the concerns of several delegations, he said that in the absence of consensus, it would not be useful for the Committee to proceed to adopt its programme of work.
The representative of the Russian Federation, who proposed a technical or procedural break, recalled that the work of the Disarmament Commission was blocked by a similar problem in April. He said the United States was showing “extreme disrespect and disregard” of its obligations under the Headquarters Agreement that it concluded with the United Nations in 1947. He added that to normalize its work, the Committee should consider holding its meetings next year in Geneva or Vienna.
In response, the representative of the United States said the Committee on Relations with the Host Country is the proper forum for addressing the issue. Indeed, the issue was discussed on 2 October by that body, which remains seized of the matter. The United States takes its responsibilities seriously but regrets that the visa question was being taken hostage, thus halting the First Committee’s work, he stated.
At the outset of today’s meeting, the Committee elected Wendbigda Honorine Bonkoungou (Burkina Faso) as Vice-Chair, completing its Bureau. Ms. Bonkoungou will serve alongside Vice-Chairs Amal Mudallali (Lebanon) and Peter Horne (Australia), with Szilvia Balázs (Hungary) serving as Rapporteur.
Representatives of Syria, Iran, Cuba and Nicaragua also spoke.