DUBAI, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may cancel his trip to New York next week for the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations if the United States fails to issue visas for him and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the next few hours, state media said on Wednesday.
Longtime U.S.-Iran strains have worsened since U.S. President Donald Trump last year quit a 2015 international agreement for Iran to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Tensions have escalated in recent months after attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf and Saudi oil facilities that the United States blames on Iran.
The United States blacklisted Zarif at the end of July, imposing sanctions that would block any property or interests he has in the United States, though the foreign minister says he has none.
Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that Rouhani’s and Zarif’s visit to the United Nations in New York for the high-level meeting of the 193-member General Assembly “will likely be canceled if their visas are not issued in the next few hours.”
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.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world body had been in contact with the United States “in order to solve all outstanding visa problems in relation to delegations” and hoped the problem could be solved.
In July, the United States imposed tight travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats and their families in New York, only allowing movement between the United Nations, the Iranian U.N. mission, the Iranian U.N. ambassador’s residence, John F. Kennedy airport and a small area in the borough of Queens.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)