UN diplomat 'saddened' over perceived snub by New York mayor

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, on Friday lamented the New York mayor's refusal to meet him to discuss UN operating procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I was saddened to learn that the Mayor was unavailable to meet with me," Bozkir said in a statement.

"This lack of interaction concerns me as policies devised by the City of New York directly affect the work of the United Nations and by extension millions of lives across the globe," said the diplomat.

Questioned about the complaint, Bozkir's spokesman Brenden Varma declined to say if the UN official was seeking exemptions for representatives of the 193 member states to the city's rule that visitors entering New York must self-quarantine for 14 days.

When he took up his post in September, Bozkir -- who has said he wants many meetings to be held in person at the UN to show that the organization is back at work -- announced he was planning a summit on the virus before the end of the year.

This meeting was expected to take place in person on December 3 and 4.

Since March, the UN, under the guidance of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who is known for his cautious approach, has relied mainly on distance working and teleconferences.

Varma said City Hall "did not give a reason... they just declined the request of an appointment."

In her own statement Friday, Penny Abeywardena from the city’s international relations department said she was "surprised and saddened" by Bozkir's message.

"Mayor Bill de Blasio has an excellent relationship with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres," she said. "And over the course of the de Blasio Administration, the City of New York has had a deeply collaborative relationship with Mr Bozkir's predecessors."

Varma said the mayor's office had proposed a meeting with Abeywardena but stressed "it's important for the President to meet with the mayor himself."

He added that the UN official had recently also requested a meeting with New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo and was awaiting an answer.

Bozkir is pushing for face-to-face meetings because "he feels like in-person diplomacy is key to how the UN operates and how the UN helps people around the world," Varma said.