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Cablegate: Un Host Country Committee: Airport Parking Fees;

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUCNDT #0091/01 0312159
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD553F35 TOQ9889-695)
R 312159Z JAN 08
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3639
INFO USINT HAVANA

UNCLAS USUN NEW YORK 000091

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY (ADDRESS ADDED)

DEPT FOR IO/UNP; DS/DSS/DO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OFDP UN CU
SUBJECT: UN HOST COUNTRY COMMITTEE: AIRPORT PARKING FEES;
MISSION SECURITY; NY GAS TAX

REF: A. 07 USUN NEW YORK 1088
B. 08 USUN NEW YORK 0013
C. 07 USUN NEW YORK 0975

1. Summary: Security incidents and removal of NYPD
presence from a fixed security post at the Cuban Mission,
exemptions from New York State gasoline taxes and the
unwelcomed and sudden decision by the Port Authority of NY
and NJ (PANYNJ) to charge parking fees to diplomatic vehicles
at area airports were issues raised at the 236th meeting of
the Committee on Relations with the Host Country on January
22. End Summary.

Security at the Cuban Mission

2. While the Committee Chair had persuaded the Cuban Mission
to raise its concerns (see REFTELS) at this regularly
scheduled meeting, Cuban UM Permanent Representative
Malmierca Diaz stated that he had called the meeting on an
urgent basis to discuss security incidents at his mission and
to protest the unilateral decision to withdraw New York City
Police Department (NYPD) coverage from the fixed post there
(Reftel A). He described a December 10, 2007 demonstration
and a December 26, 2007 rock-throwing incident (Reftel B).
He also referenced his mission's note to USUN (Reftel B) and
reiterated its list of hostile acts against the mission and
its personnel (e.g. the 1980 assassination of Felix Garcia
Rodriguez and freedom granted to &terrorist8 Orlando
Bosch). He cited Article 22 of the VCDR of 1961 and sought
the Committee's assistance in guaranteeing that the host
country took all measures to ensure security and a calm
working environment, as was its responsibility under
international law.

3. USUN/HC MinCouns Graham gave assurances to the Cuban PR
that the USG was very concerned about the security of the
Mission and its personnel. He reminded the PR that the
serious incidents mentioned had occurred over 20 years ago
and that there had been many years of good cooperation with
the Cuban Mission on security matters. He stated that the
Department would continue to engage NYC on the question of
re-staffing the fixed post and he informed the Committee that
there would be a meeting Thursday, January 24, with USUN, the
Cuban Mission and NYC to discuss the incidents and to develop
solutions to these security concerns. He reported that the
individual who had thrown a rock at the Mission's window, a
Cuban migr, had been arrested and charged with a felony
offense.

4. The Chairman noted that he looked forward to the results
of three-way discussions and would follow up on the issue and
the next Committee meeting.

Gasoline Tax Exemption

5. Italy inquired about new developments re gasoline tax
charged to diplomats using gas company cards, an issue raised
at last October's meeting (Reftel C). US reiterated that NY
State recognized the diplomats, exemption from gasoline
taxes, and that the current situation reflected a change in
procedure, not policy. The change had resulted from a NY
State court decision on how tax exemption was to be handled.
US recommended diplomats contact the Office of Foreign
Missions to obtain information on tax reimbursement and
informed the Committee that the USG was working with NY State
on the matter. He reported that legislation to address the
NY State Court's concerns and return the process to the
status quo ante was moving through the NYS legislature. The
Russian Federation, China and Turkey also expressed interest
in the matter being resolved as soon as possible.

Parking Fees at NY Area Airports

6. China requested an update on the status of parking fees
at JFK, expressing concern that many mission staffers had
been affected by this unexpected occurrence (Reftel C). US
responded that the airports were run by the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and not by the USG, but that
USUN had discussed missions' concerns with the PANYNJ and had
understood that diplomats would no longer encounter problems
at airport lots. Complaints had decreased and US hoped the
matter would be resolved fully. US requested that missions
still experiencing problems contact USUN Host Country
Section.

7. Argentina intervened to complain that their mission had
been charged for Parking just the day before.
MISSION SECURITY; NY GAS TAX

8. The Russian Federation reiterated it did not fully
understand the change in policy of free parking which had
been in place for many years. He added that it was standard
practice in many countries for diplomats to be able to park
free when on official business at the airport. Russia
appealed to the Host Country to seek to return to the
original practice, particularly since, it believed, the extra
revenue was probably minimal.
9. Ukraine confirmed that it had been paying parking fees at
JFK for the past three months and echoed the request for the
USG to seek a return to free parking for diplomatic vehicles
on official business.

10. Turkey and Trinidad and Tobago also expressed the hope
of hearing positive developments in this regard.

11. The US explained that it had learned from discussions
that the PANYNJ had apparently had a policy on its books to
charge fees to vehicles not transporting Ambassadors or
Consul Generals but that the policy had not been enforced
until now. It appeared a change in management had
precipitated renewed enforcement of the policy but that there
was a concerted effort to find a solution to the concerns
expressed by the diplomatic community. He said that he did
not know if the situation would return to that where every
diplomatic vehicle was allowed free parking, however, he
encouraged missions that had problems to call or write USUN
so that he could convey the evidence of widespread complaints
to the PA.

12. Comment: The apparent end to free parking at area
airports has energized the diplomatic community. The
PANYNJ's levying of fees, with no advance notice, is viewed
as yet another erosion of courtesies for diplomats in New
York. This, in addition to property tax lawsuits, parking
tickets at $115 a pop issued to drivers picking up
Ambassadors, a possible NYC Congestion Charge and reported
indignities repeatedly suffered by diplomats at the airport,
all contribute to a growing impression among the UN
diplomatic community that there is a concerted effort by the
host government and host city to extract more money and to
ignore the traditional status and customary courtesies
accorded to diplomats elsewhere.

13. On January 29, USUN/HC and OFM/NY discussed with PANYNJ
officials the possibility of eliminating airport fees for
diplomatic plated vehicles staying less than 24 hours at
NY-area airports. PANYNJ suggested US consider submitting a
written request to PANYNJ's Executive Director who would
likely respond within a few months.
KHALILZAD

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