Mexico has forged a new alliance with Moscow to challenge a common enemy: the recently imposed total ban on smoking on the grounds of UN headquarters in New York.
Yesterday, Mexican diplomat Ernesto Herrera called on the UN Secretariat to clarify how it set the policy, which goes beyond a General Assembly resolution adopted in 2000 that discouraged smoking but did not ban it.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s “no smoking” policy has especially annoyed Russia’s UN Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, who has continued to smoke in UN headquarters despite the order which took effect on September 1.
When Mr Herrera raised the issue in the General Assembly’s finance committee, a Russian diplomat quickly supported his call for the Secretariat, which is headed by Mr Annan, to explain why the assembly resolution adopted in 2000 was not being followed.
Mr Annan’s new policy bans smoking on all UN premises “for the purpose of eliminating the risks associated with second-hand smoke” and to be consistent with UN World Health Organisation principles.
Soon after the ban went into effect, Mr Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia that Mr Annan does not have the authority to stop diplomats from smoking.
Last year, New York City adopted laws prohibiting smoking in all offices and indoor public places.
The UN, which is international territory and not governed by local ordinances, was considered the last bastion for smokers in New York City.