The day the UN General Assembly left its New York home


The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Arafat, arrived at UN headquarters by helicopter. A view of the helicopter as it approached the north lawn of the UN campus on November 13, 1974. But Arafat was denied a US visa for a second visit to the UN in 1988. Credit: UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras
  • by Thalif Deen (United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

But there have been several cases of open violation of this agreement by successive US administrations.

Stephen Zunes, a professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco who has written extensively on United Nations politics, told IPS that the US has broken its promise to the UN by Palestinian Liberation leader Yasser Arafat. Organization (PLO), to come to New York to speak, forcing the entire General Assembly to meet in Geneva in 1988.

“And there is the periodic obsession of the US media with visits from foreign leaders that Americans love to hate, such as (Iranian President) Ahmadinejad (while ignoring the more moderate Iranian leaders before and since speaking of peace and reconciliation),” he said. Zunes.

And, of course, there are the bizarre and misleading speeches of several US presidents over the years, he added

The move to Geneva was a first in UN history – but it made for a less hostile political environment for the PLO leader – as the General Assembly, the UN’s highest policy-making body, showed up and the US gave a resounding rumble. slapped. leaving his home in New York.

Palestine is one of two permanent observer states that are not members, the other being the Holy See (Vatican).

Arafat, who first addressed the UN in 1974, took a swipe at Washington when he prefaced his statement by saying, “It never occurred to me that my second meeting with this honorable Assembly would be in the hospitable city of Geneva. “.

Meanwhile, there were reports last week that visas for Russian diplomats, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, were refused or delayed ahead of the September 20-26 General Assembly high-level meeting.

Asked about the Russians’ complaints, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters last week: “This is an issue that we have raised repeatedly with the host country”.

“This is an issue presented to us by the Russian Federation. I think the Secretary-General strongly believes that visas should be delivered to the Russian delegation and to delegations that have to do business at the United Nations, especially during the General Assembly.”

Asked at what level this was discussed, he said: “It’s one that we’ve raised repeatedly because, as you say, it’s been going on for quite some time. The Legal Adviser is the point of contact in this regard”.

“It was done through our legal office because they support the host country committee, but I know this is an issue that I think the Secretary General has also raised in a number of phone conversations with senior US officials, and one that is raised with him by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, as well as Russian Permanent Representative Nebenzia.”

On his first visit in 1974, the PLO leader avoided hundreds of pro- and anti-Arafat protesters outside the UN building by arriving in a helicopter that landed on the North Lawn of the UN campus next to the East River.

Arafat was escorted by security men to the UN building and to the Secretary General’s 38th floor, where he spent the night in a makeshift bedroom.

But that bedroom hadn’t been used for years, and the color of the water was brown when the bathroom faucet was opened. Fortunately, it was not an attempt by Israeli intelligence to poison the PLO leader.

There was also a legendary story about how Arafat, who was on an Israeli hit list, never slept on the same bed for two consecutive nights – to outsmart assassins who tried to kill him in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

But whatever the reason, Arafat only spent one night in the UN building.

Since Arafat, various political leaders – usually hostile to the US or at the head of regimes under US sanctions – have been either denied visas or implicitly declared persona non grata (PNG).

As a result, ‘rogue states’ heads of state, including North Korean Kim Il Sung, Iraqi Saddam Hussein, and Syrian Hafez al Assad, have never approached the UN — and perhaps never tried to get a U.S. visa. , which may have been rejected.

When former Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, charged with war crimes, was denied a US visa to participate in the high-level sessions of the General Assembly in September 2013, Hassan Ali, a senior Sudanese diplomat, registered a strong protest to the UN Legal Affairs Committee.

“Sudan’s democratically elected president was denied the opportunity to participate in the General Assembly because the host country, the United States, had refused him a visa, in violation of the UN-US headquarters agreement.”

“It was a major and deliberate violation of the HQ agreement,” he said.

The refusal of a visa to the Sudanese president was also a political landmine because al-Bashir had been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But the question that remained answered was: Does the United States have the right to act implicitly on an ICC ruling if Washington is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC?

Meanwhile, some of the military or autocratic leaders who addressed the UN in a bygone era included Fidel Castro of Cuba, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, Amadou Toure of Mali (who took power after a coup in 1991 but later served as a democratically elected president), and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana (who seized power in 1979, executed former political leaders, but later came to power as a civilian president in democratic elections).

Libyan leader Gaddafi made a dramatic appearance at the UN in September 2009.

In its report, the London Guardian said he “grabbed his 15 minutes of fame in the UN building in New York and ran with it. He ran it so fast that he stretched it to an hour and 40 minutes, six times longer than his allotted spot, much to the dismay of UN organizers.”

Gaddafi lived up to his reputation for eccentricity, bloodlust and extreme verbiage, the Guardian said, tearing up a copy of the UN charter in front of startled delegates, accusing the Security Council of being an al-Qaida-like terrorist body. called for the trial of George Bush and Tony Blair for the war in Iraq, demanded $7.7 trillion in compensation for the ravages of colonialism in Africa, and questioned whether swine flu was a biological weapon in a military laboratory was made.

Incidentally, according to a news report, there were 112 different spellings of the Libyan leader’s name in both English and Arabic, including Muammar el-Qaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi, Muammar al-Gathafi, Muammar El Gaddafi, Muammar el Kazzafi, Moamer, El Qathafi, Mu’Ammar, Gadafi and Moamar Gaddafi, among others.

The Wall Street Journal ran a cartoon mocking the plural spelling, with a visiting reporter, during a one-on-one interview in Tripoli, to the Libyan leader: “My editor sent me to find out if you Gaddafi, Gaddafi, are you, Gadafi, Gaddafi or Gaddafi?”

This article features excerpts from a book about the UN – a motley collection of hilarious anecdotes – titled “No Comments – And Don’t Quote Me About It,” available on Amazon. The link to Amazon from the author’s website follows:

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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