Remarks to the Sixth Committee on Agenda Item 166: Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country

Mark Simonoff
Minister Counselor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 2, 2017


Mr. Chairman, the United States is proud to serve as host country to the United Nations. We recognize that we are both providing an important service to the UN community as well as fulfilling our many responsibilities.

The Committee on Relations with the Host Country is a valuable forum in which to discuss relevant issues relating to the presence of this large, diverse, and dynamic diplomatic community in New York City, one of the largest, most diverse and most dynamic cities in the world. The Committee’s meetings provide the United States with an opportunity to listen to, understand and address the concerns of the UN community.

The United States greatly values the cooperation and the constructive spirit of the members of the Committee in its work and the assistance provided by the United Nations Secretariat in this regard. We also appreciate the interest and participation in meetings of numerous observer delegations. The ability of delegations that are not members of the Committee to participate in the Committee’s meetings has helped make the Committee’s deliberations open and more representative of the UN diplomatic community.

The Host Country Section of the U.S. Mission has worked hard to assist Member States during the past year. For example, between January 1, 2017 and November 1, 2017 more than 4,400 visas were issued to members of the UN diplomatic community. We look forward to continued collaboration and positive interactions with all of our colleagues in the UN community.

Mr. Chairman, the United States would like to express particular appreciation for the efforts of the Chairman of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, Ambassador Kornelios Korneliou as well as Legal Adviser to the Cyprus mission, Vasiliki Krasa. We also wish to thank the United Nations Legal Counsel, Miguel Serpa Soares and Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Stephen Mathias, for their assistance and guidance in the Committee’s work. We wish to recognize the efforts of Mr. Surya Sinha, Secretary of the Committee. We also express our appreciation for the many valuable services provided to the United Nations diplomatic community by our colleagues in New York City government and its component municipal agencies.

Mr. Chairman, regarding the statement of the Russian Federation, the United States conferred privileges and immunities on the Russian property in Upper Brookville, New York, pursuant to an arrangement dating back decades. This arrangement does not fall within U.S. obligations under the UN Headquarters Agreement – or the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, to the extent that convention’s provisions are incorporated implicitly through provisions of the Headquarters Agreement.

The United States has never considered this property to be part of the “premises” of the mission. “Premises of the mission” is a very narrowly defined term. Under Art. 1(i) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the premises of the mission “are the buildings or parts of buildings and the land ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for the purposes of the mission including the residence of the head of mission.” Premises away from the mission are exceptional. Under Article 12 of the Vienna Convention, “The sending State may not, without the prior express consent of the receiving State, establish offices forming part of the mission in localities other than those in which the mission itself is established.” The United States did not give express consent to the Russian Federation establishing offices in Upper Brookville.

Although the property is owned by the Russian Federation, this does not make it part of the “premises” of the Russian Mission. It is not the case that all property owned by the Russian Federation in the New York area and used by staff of the Russian Mission for recreational purposes or for receptions is considered “premises” of the mission.

In conclusion, this property did not fall within the provisions of the Headquarters Agreement or the Vienna Convention.

This matter should be left to the United States and the Russian Federation to handle bilaterally so that they can reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the issue.

Some delegations raised restrictions on private non-official travel of members of certain Missions. Such restrictions do not violate Headquarters Agreement because the restrictions at issue do not interfere with travel for UN official business. Consistent with the UN Headquarters Agreement, the United States provides Mission members and delegations with unimpeded access to the Headquarters District. The United States is not required to permit all of these individuals to travel to other parts of the United States unless they do so for official UN meetings or official UN business. Travel to unofficial events or for recreational purposes is not required by the Headquarters Agreement or any other international agreement.

In closing, let me reiterate how proud the United States is to be the Host Country to the United Nations. We look forward to continuing to work closely with all of you in resolving issues that may arise during the coming year.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.