UN Unhappy About US Restrictions on Iranian FM Zarif During His NYC Visit

Patrick Goodenough | July 16, 2019 | 4:30am EDT
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During a previous visit by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to New York, protesters wielding masks caricaturing Zarif, President Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demonstrate outside at event he was addressing. (Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

(Update: Javad Zarif in a tweet on Tuesday said his NBC interview had taken place “in Iran’s UN ambassador’s residence – one of the three buildings I’m permitted to set foot in while in the US.”)

(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations has raised concern with the U.S. government over the administration’s decision to restrict the movement of Iran’s high-profile foreign minister, who is attending an event at the world body in New York, to several city blocks.

Javad Zarif is attending an U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) forum on sustainable development, which includes a three-day ministerial segment from Tuesday to Thursday.

While in the U.S., he is being restricted to travel between U.N. headquarters on the East River, the Iranian mission on 3rd Avenue about six blocks or 0.4 miles away, and the residence of the Iranian ambassador on nearby Park Avenue.

“The secretariat is aware of the restrictive travel measures recently imposed by the host country on personnel of the permanent mission of Iran to the U.N.,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said on Monday.

“The secretariat is in close contact with the permanent missions of the United States and Iran to the U.N. regarding this matter, and has conveyed its concerns to the host country,” he added.

Speaking about the restrictions placed on Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, “U.S. diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either.”

“It’s absolutely appropriate that we provide Foreign Minister Zarif and his delegation with all the rights that they are due under the U.N. headquarters agreement, and nothing more than that,” Pompeo told the Washington Post.

The 1947 headquarters agreement referred to by Pompeo established the permanent seat of the U.N. in New York City.

Under it, the U.S. agreed to allow foreign delegates unimpeded access to a demarcated “headquarters district,” which coincides with the boundaries of the U.N. headquarters, U.N. visitors center, and grounds. (The area between East 42nd and East 48th Street, and between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive.)

The 1947 'headquarters agreement' allows the US to restrict the movements of diplomats from member-states whose governments it doesn’t recognize. (Image: UN.org)

The agreement says that in the case of member-states whose governments are not recognized by the U.S., diplomatic immunities and privileges are extended to their diplomats and staff only within that headquarters district, “at their residences and offices outside the district, in transit between the district and such residences and offices, and in transit on official business to or from foreign countries.”

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran were severed after Iranian student radicals seized American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told the Fox News Channel on Monday that the U.S. will honor its headquarters agreement obligations, “but that doesn’t mean that we need to allow the Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City.”

“So how do we prevent them from going outside of those six blocks?” Fox News’ Dana Perino asked him.

“What we have, uh, largely working with our [Bureau of] Diplomatic Security, but we’ve put in place the necessary protocols to ensure that they stay within that six-block radius.”

Zarif is himself a former Iranian ambassador to the U.N. – the Park Avenue residence was his home – and as foreign minister has visited the city frequently. When he does so, the English-speaking minister regularly addresses think tank audiences and grants television interviews.

He appeared on NBC’s Nightly News on Monday night, and during a wide-ranging interview was asked about the travel restriction issue.

“The administration has made it painfully clear in the last 48 hours that you’re not really welcome here,” said host Lester Holt.

“Well, I’m not here to discuss issues with the administration,” Zarif replied. “I’m here for the United Nations and the United States has a legal treaty obligation in hosting the U.N. headquarters. If they don’t like the U.N. headquarters, they can raise it at the U.N., not with me.”

Zarif confirmed that he has not had any dealings, even indirectly, with Pompeo, although he said he did speak to his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. That encounter took place at a meeting of the Iran nuclear deal partners, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2017.

In his Fox News appearance, Hook said there would be no meetings with Zarif during his visit.

He confirmed that there was no “back channel” underway between the U.S. “and anybody in the Iranian regime.”

“Everything that's being said is being said by the president and the secretary of state publicly.”

Late last month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House that President Trump had instructed him to designate Zarif for sanctions within days. The administration has not yet taken the action.

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