Russia raps US over lack of UN visas for its diplomats, seeks arbitration

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

(Reuters) - Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of failing to issue visas to Russian delegates to the United Nations and of restricting the movements of its diplomats and said it would pursue arbitration proceedings.

In an interview with the RIA news agency, Russian foreign ministry official Pyotr Ilyichev said the United States had failed to comply with the 1947 U.N. Headquarters Agreement, which prohibits most restrictions on diplomats' access to the United Nations.

"The U.S. is raising increasing doubts about the validity of its right to retain its status as host state for the U.N Headquarters," Ilyichev said.

"This is about the unjustified non-issuance of visas to delegates to participate in U.N. events and restrictions on the movements of foreign diplomats," he said.

Ilyichev also accused Washington of illegally "raiding" diplomatic property, in violation of international law, without providing any details.

Russia has complained before that its diplomats have not received visas to attend U.N. events, including last September when it said only half the visas it had requested were approved.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said at the time that it took its obligations as a U.N. host country seriously and that visa records were confidential under U.S. law.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, relations between the two countries have dropped to historic lows, with Moscow dismissing the idea of rapprochement in the foreseeable future.

While there have been occasional diplomatic successes, including prisoner swaps involving U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed and basketball star Brittney Griner, high-level contact has been scarce.

(Reporting by Caleb Davis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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