UN in dilemma as the Taliban request to address general assembly

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Amir Khan Muttaqi, Taliban's acting foreign minister, in Kabul. [Courtesy]

The United Nations has been left in dilemma on whether to give Pakistan an opportunity to address this week’s General Assembly in New York.

This comes after the Taliban made a requested to be represented at the high-level meeting.

An article published by CNN indicates that the Taliban, who now govern Afghanistan after takeover from the US forces, instructed the UN on Monday to replace Ghulam Isaczai with their own representative a move that is expected to kick off a diplomatic battle.

Afghanistan is currently represented at the UN by Isaczai, an appointee of the country's former democratic government, which crumbled under the Taliban's advance last month.

UN Secretary-General's spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the rival requests by the Taliban and Isaczai are now being considered by UN's credentials committee.

"The Secretary-General received a communication with the letterhead 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs' dated 20 September 2021, signed by 'Ameer Khan Muttaqi' as 'Minister of Foreign Affairs,' requesting to participate in the '76th session of the UN General Assembly on September 21-27 2021,” read part of CNN’s article.

According to the article, Isaczai no longer represents Afghanistan. Instead Taliban named Mohammad Suhail Shaheen as the Islamist militant group's nominee for permanent representative in New York.

“The letter also noted that former President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani has been "ousted and [countries across the world] no longer recognize him as president," it read.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Isaczai has continued to advocate for his country, meeting with foreign envoys and even calling on the UN Security Council to pressure the Taliban into forming a more democratic government.

Last week, it is said Antonio Guterres received a communication from Isaczai, with the list of Afghanistan’s delegation for the assembly’s 76th annual session.

Five days later, he received another communication with the letterhead ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ signed by Amir Khan Muttaqi as minister of foreign affairs, requesting to participate in the UN gathering of world leaders, reports CNN.

Muttaqi in the letter said that former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was “ousted” as of 15 August and that countries across the world no longer recognise him as president, and therefore Isaczai no longer represented Afghanistan.

As a result, UN officials are torn between deciding which representative to recognize in the high-level meeting.

In cases of disputes over seats at the UN, the general assembly’s nine-member credentials committee must meet to make a decision. Both letters have been sent to the committee, says CNN.

Afghanistan is scheduled to give the last speech on the final day of the high-level meeting on 27 September, but it is unclear whether the committee will meet before the end of the convocation on Monday.

The committee is made up of Russia, China, the US, Sweden, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Chile, Bhutan and the Bahamas.

A senior US State Department official further told CNN that the United States "will obviously follow this issue closely and deliberate along with other members of the Credentials Committee" and noted they do not expect a decision to be made before the end of the UN General Assembly high-level week.

"The Credentials Committee generally has taken some time. I'm not going to predict how long it's going to take this time," the official said.

"I would note that the broader General Assembly goes on for some three months, high level week, obviously, is just this week, and I don't expect this issue to be resolved within high level week. So watch the space," the official said.

UN watchers had told CNN that they anticipated potential conflict this year over at least two seats in the General Assembly Hall.

Those of Myanmar and Afghanistan, where new regimes have recently surged to power but diplomats representing the previous governments still hold UN accreditation.

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