The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti claimed on October 15 that “[a]fter [the U.S. authorities denied entry visas to members of the Russian delegation] the First and the Sixth Committees of the UN General Assembly, in protest, suspended their work for several hours.”
Polygraph.info previously examined a claim regarding the legal basis for a host country denying an entry visa. It found that the members of Russia’s U.N. delegation, whose names had been disclosed to the public, were the targets of U.S. Treasury Department sanctions, including a travel ban, and thus the U.S. State Department would have violated U.S. law by issuing entry visas to those who are targeted by sanctions.
An investigation of RIA Novosti’s most recent claim reveals it is false.
The Sixth Committee
The Sixth Committee, or Legal Committee, held its meeting on October 14 after a “several hour delay.” In his opening remarks, the committee’s chairman, Michal Mlynar of Slovakia, said the delay was related to procedure and the program.
A diplomat present at the Sixth Committee meeting told the Voice of America’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer that the RIA Novosti claim “is not quite correct.”
“We suspended for a few hours to continue informal consultations on the Program of Work, which in the end was adopted this morning. It was linked to concerns voiced by Iran about the limited ability of their delegation to function in the Sixth Committee due to some visa-related issues. Iran took the floor yesterday afternoon and also last Monday,” the diplomat told VOA.
After the Sixth Committee’s chairman opened its morning session on October 14, Iran’s representative took the floor. Confirming the diplomat’s comments to VOA, the Iranian representative’s statement concerned the Iranian delegations’ visa issues.
The First Committee
The First Committee, or Disarmament and International Security Committee, held its morning meeting on October 14. No delays or suspensions were reported.
Russia was mentioned at the end of the meeting in an announcement by the secretariat, stating that the Russian delegation would be holding an informal consultation at 3 p.m. – the same time the afternoon session of the First Committee was scheduled to start.
As video footage of the First Committee afternoon meeting shows, the regular proceedings during the session were interrupted.
However, contrary to RIA Novosti’s claim, the suspensions were not in solidarity with Russia, but due to requests by the Ukrainian and the U.S. delegations for “consultation breaks,” to which the Russian representative objected, demanding the meeting to continue with general debate. After several breaks, the session continued according to its schedule.
A Detailed Debrief of the First Committee Session
Polygraph.info provides below a detailed debrief of the meeting transcribed from the live video feed, which demonstrates that the RIA Novosti claim was indeed false:
Ukraine’s representative took the floor after the chairman’s opening remarks and requested a break to consult on the agenda.
Russia’s representative demanded that the chairman provide a clarification on the procedure for holding general debate.
The chairman of the First Committee, Sacha Llorenty Soliz of Bolivia, responded by saying the committee is paying “due diligence” to the previously submitted statement by Russia regarding the “lack of issuance of visas to the members of their delegation.”
Soliz said that the First Committee leadership held informal consultations at multiple General Assembly levels and with the host country representatives. He said the chair had done “everything he can do in order to resolve the situation,” but that the issue was beyond the remit of the committee. He underscored that the Ukrainian delegation proposed proceeding with the adoption of the general debate schedule.
The Russian representative then took the floor, demanding again that the First Committee continue its proceedings with general debate, according to the agenda adopted on October 8.
A U.S. representative then took the floor requesting a ten-minute suspension of the session “just to get the sense of really what is going on here.” However, Cuba’s delegation objected to the break request, after which the chairman granted a five-minute break.
The session resumed with the Ukrainian delegation requesting “not to suspend but to adjourn the meeting” to discuss the adoption of the work program.
The U.S. representative then requested a 30-minute suspension “to further discuss the issue.”
The Russian representative again demanded that the session continue with general debates, but agreed to the U.S. delegation demand to take a 30-minute break.
The delegations of Egypt, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Syria and Iran supported the Russian proposal to continue with the general debate.
The chairman announced a ten-minute break for consultations after which the session continued according to its schedule.
Thus, the RIA Novosti claim that the U.N. General Assembly First and Sixth Committees suspended their work on October 14 in solidarity with the Russian delegation’s visa situation is false.