22 April 2014
Statement by H.E. Mr. Gholamhossein Dehghani Ambassador and
Charge d’Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran
before The Committee on Relations with the Host Country
22 April 2014 , New York
In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
At the outset, I would like to thank you for convening this meeting of the Committee today to consider the long-debated issue of entry visas to members of the staff of Missions which has unfortunately become a perennial item on the agenda of this Committee. In the backdrop of this unrelenting problem, my delegation deemed it necessary to take this opportunity to share with you and the distinguished Committee members our serious concerns, this time, regarding the denial of the United States entry visa to the designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations.
Let me begin by underlining the unique responsibility this Committee has in upholding the obligations by the Host Country authorities within the framework of international law and especially under the Headquarters Agreement, which is a sine qua non for the normal functioning of diplomatic Missions accredited to the United Nations. We and other Member-States, who refer their issues to this Committee and participate in its meetings, earnestly expect that the concerns and complaints raised in this Committee be effectively addressed by relevant authorities of the HostState in coordination with this Committee.
As the record of this Committee testifies, my delegation has appeared numerous times before this Committee and/or otherwise communicated its concerns over the issue of entry visa, which is the basic right of every Member-State and imperative for enabling them to be duly represented in this intergovernmental organization. Out of a long list of visa problems and excruciating delays, I confine myself to the current examples: two Iranian diplomats designated more than five months ago to cover their functions at the UN are yet to receive their US entry visas. Another diplomat, who was already posted here up to 2008, just received clearance for his visa following a two year wait time. There is another recent case in which the announced visa clearance is rescinded and our colleague is told to wait for yet another rerun of the process.
You also know that our visas are “one-entry” only and for each travel outside the country, we and our families are required to go through, at times, very long and unpredictable process for obtaining return visas. To mention an example, during the last Summer, many of my colleagues and their families were deprived from traveling home, because they received their visas only weeks after schools reopened. There are cases that visa is not issued for the entire family members and make it impossible for them to move. Moreover, in case of a family emergency, the return visa is always an impediment in the way. This situation is absurd and we cannot find a justifiable answer for it. We have continuously communicated with the US Mission and also requested your intervention, so that visas for Iranian officials participating in formal UN meetings as well as those staff of this Mission to be issued in time. It is very regrettable and disturbing that this situation continues unabated and the solid obligations of the Host country are ignored unjustifiably. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, and other distinguished members: those who negotiated the Headquarters Agreement could have ever imagined that their achievement would be this grossly violated?
This time, the case of denying visa to the Iranian designated Permanent Representative is so obviously a breach of the provisions of the Headquarters Agreement that no Member-State could and should stay indifferent about it and the Committee should deal with it in an extraordinary way. H.E. Mr. Hamid Aboutalebi, designated by the Iranian Government to serve as Permanent Representative to the UN, is a seasoned and well-known carrier diplomat, who already served in three Ambassadorial postings. While visa application for him had been filed in early December, a US official spokesman astonished us, other UN diplomats and every observer on Friday 11 April 2014 by stating that, I quote: “we have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi”.
It is obvious that such refusal of granting visa by the Host Country authorities flagrantly contravene their legal obligations under the Headquarters Agreement, which unambiguously states that its provisions shall be “applicable irrespective of the relations existing between the Governments of the persons [...] and the Government of the United States”. This move also is in contravention of the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter, including the principles of sovereign equality of states and respect for their sovereignty and political independence.
As we indicated in our note verbale to your Mission, Mr. Chairman, the decision of the US Government has indeed serious negative implications for multilateral diplomacy, as it could set a dangerous precedent and adversely affect the work of intergovernmental organizations and activities of their Member-States. We therefore believe it is the responsibility of every UN delegation to raise its objection and clearly demand parties to the Headquarters Agreement to strive towards ensuring that provisions of this agreement are implemented scrupulously as a basic requirement to achieve the purposes and to respect the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.
The Headquarters Agreement obligates the host country in clear terms, stipulating that “The federal, state or local authorities of the United States shall not impose any impediments to transit to or from the headquarters district of […] representatives of Members […] of the United Nations”, and that “When visas are required for persons referred to in that section, they shall be granted without charge and as promptly as possible”; it also stipulates that “Laws and regulations in force in the United States regarding the residence of aliens shall not be applied in such manner as to interfere with the privileges referred to in section 11”.
Depriving Member States of their inherent right to designate their representatives to the United Nations based on their own internal procedures would adversely affect the functioning of the Permanent Missions. Furthermore, it undermines the work of the United Nations system and impairs the very foundations of multilateral diplomacy. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed its strong protest to the US Government for not fulfilling its international obligations in a separate note to the US Mission in New York. Iran also requested the Legal Counsel of the Secretary-General to take all necessary measures to have the United States authorities abide by their legal obligations under the Headquarters Agreement.
We firmly believe that this is a very serious issue and the Committee should address it in an urgent and serious way. My delegation requests the Committee to pursue this issue earnestly and consider every way and means to rectify the process with a view to ensuring that the Host Country obligations, as specified in the Agreement, are fully met, including through reconsidering the decision regarding the issue at hand. We believe that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who represents one party to the bilateral treaty of Headquarters Agreement, has a responsibility to shoulder and has to work towards ensuring that the terms and provisions of the Agreement are strictly observed.
I thank you