Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly on procedural issues
Distinguished Mr.President, distinguished delegations of UN Member States,
We suggest postponing adoption of the programme of work of the Committee for the following reasons.
We have to draw attention to the problems in functioning of our shared disarmament mechanism that have accumulated and, sadly enough, have not been resolved. As you remember, in April we had to block up the work of the Commission on Disarmament because U.S. relevant authorities had not issued visas to the Head of the Russian delegation. As recent as one week ago same sort of visa-related arbitrariness threatened to ruin the work of the Russian delegation under the leadership of Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the High-Level segment of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. Besides, back then U.S. authorities thwarted the participation of almost entire governmental delegation of the Russian Federation at the 11th Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Understandably, we did not leave it unnoticed and expressed our strong protest to the American side. In particular, this was done at the meeting of Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Pompeo on 27 September. We were promised to have this issue addressed; we were assured that U.S. authorities had not had any malicious intent; we were cited some “technical malfunctions”. In parallel to this, we drew attention of the UN Secretariat to unacceptability of such severe violations of U.S. obligations. Yesterday our representative dwelt on this in detail at the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.
Today I have to state that, unfortunately, the American side again showed utmost disrespect to its obligations, to us, and, basically, to everyone in this room. Part of Russian experts have been denied visas, which puts the Russian delegation in a position that does not let us be meaningfully involved in the work of this session of the First Committee.
Let me remind once again that, under the Headquarters Agreement of 1947, the U.S. must ensure unimpeded access to the Headquarters of all official representatives of Member States without exception and issue visas for them, I quote, “without charge and as promptly as possible”. Hosting UN Headquarters is a privilege that was granted to the U.S. in return for the aforementioned guarantees.
Washington has no reason to unilaterally obstruct participation of Member States’ representatives in the events convened under UN auspices. All the more – to decide who should be part of or even be Head of national delegations, and who should not.
We are not going to put up with this. We will never bargain away our legitimate right to define the makeup of Russian delegation at UN events. Therefore, let me officially request the UN Secretariat to provide to the First Committee a report on measures that have been taken since November 2018 to unlock access to the UN Headquarters for the Russian delegation so that it could take part in UN events on disarmament.
As long as the “visa issue” is up in the air, we suggest taking a “technical” (or procedural) pause in order to settle it promptly. As soon as the entire Russian delegation without any exception receives visas, we shall be ready to resume the official session. Unless the U.S. implements its obligations to the UN in terms of enabling participation of all announced official representatives of UN Member States, we suggest switching over to informal consultations.
At the same time, we request the UN Secretariat and the Bureau to take effective steps to stop the practice of one State flagrantly impeding the participation ofdelegates from other Member States in the work of the First Committee.
In conclusion, let me stress the following. I think you will agree that what I speak about is not a mere chain of coincidence, but a deliberate breach of obligations by the U.S. Against these circumstances, we have only one option of what we can do in order to keep an opportunity to have substantial dialogue on most important disarmament- and security-related issues. In order to normalize the work of the First Committee and the United Nations Disarmament Commission, we believe we should consider a prospect of convening their 2020 sessions outside the U.S. – in Geneva or Vienna, for example. We stand ready to have a targeted discussion of this issue at the current session of the UN General Assembly.
In response to the statement by a representative of the United States:
The attempt of our U.S. colleagues to shift responsibility for this uneasy situation to Russia is regrettable. It is not us who do not issue visas to the U.S. side. It is the U.S. who does not issue visas to us. As a matter of fact, not only to us, but, as we can learn from the statements of my colleagues, to a greater number of national delegations. Do not make boast of issuing 160 visas – issue all the visas that are requested. Do not turn it into a good will gesture – do it because there are relevant agreements to that end. This is not our whim – this is our right. Our experts are nothing less than experts of other Member States. They are not tourists, they come here to do their job. It is not Russian-American bilateral relations that we deal with, it is the U.S. deliberately coming short of its obligations under the agreements. As for the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, let me save my colleagues from having an impression that we first addressed this issue yesterday, and say the following: we have raised visa issues with the American side in this Committee since 2004. Maybe, some of our colleagues can say they have had even a longer history of discussing this aspect without any tangible result. What raises our particular concern is that ever since 2018, because of such visa policy of the U.S., we have not been able to take full-fledged part in the disarmament segment of our work.
This situation is absolutely unacceptable. I call upon all colleagues in this room to show solidarity with us.