WASHINGTON: The United States has given Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a visa to travel to New York for the United Nations' annual gathering of world leaders next week with half the delegation Moscow requested, a Russian diplomatic source said on Tuesday. Moscow had asked Washington for 56 visas, according to a Sept. 2 letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres from Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. The Russian diplomatic source said on Tuesday the United States had approved 24 visas.
Nebenzia had also noted in his letter that the flight crew for Lavrov's plane had not received visas. It was not immediately clear if Washington had granted visas for the Russian flight crew or if Lavrov would be expected to fly commercial airlines to New York. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The high-level meeting of the U.N. General Assembly begins on Sept. 20.
Under the 1947 U.N. "headquarters agreement," the United States is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats. But Washington says it can deny visas for security, terrorism and foreign policy reasons. The United Nations said earlier this month that it was speaking with the United States about the issue of Russian visas.
The relationship between the United States and Russia has ruptured since Moscow invaded neighboring Ukraine in February. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine "a special military operation." The Kremlin on Tuesday said the United States was "violating its obligations" by not issuing visas to Russia's full delegation and said it would hold the United Nations and the United States to account over the situation.
The United States said earlier this month it takes its U.N. host country obligations seriously and that visa records are confidential under U.S. law, so it could not comment on individual cases.