Taliban ask to address UN general assembly after Afghanistan takeover

The Taliban have challenged the credentials of Afghanistan’s former United Nations ambassador and are asking to speak at the UN general assembly, a UN spokesperson has said.

UN officials must now decide which representative to recognise, a month after the Taliban swept into power as the US prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of August.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said secretary general Antonio Guterres received a communication on 15 September from the accredited Afghan ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, with the list of Afghanistan’s delegation for the assembly’s 76th annual session.

Five days later, Guterres received another communication with the letterhead Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, signed by Amir Khan Muttaqi as minister of foreign affairs, requesting to participate in the UN gathering of world leaders.

Muttaqi said in the letter 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, Dujarric said.

The Taliban said it was nominating a new UN permanent representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, Dujarric said.

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, Dujarric said.

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.

Senior US State Department officials said they were aware of the Taliban’s request, but they would not predict how the committee might rule. However, one of the officials said the committee “would take some time to deliberate”, suggesting that the Taliban’s envoy would not be able to speak at the general assembly at this session, at least during the high-level leaders’ week.

The committee has in the past refrained from making a decision and instead referred it to the general assembly for a vote, a diplomatic source told AFP.

No government has yet recognised the Taliban government, first demanding that it meet commitments on human rights, but the ruling emir of Qatar, whose nation has played a pivotal role in Afghanistan, urged world leaders against turning their backs on the Taliban.

Speaking at the general assembly on Tuesday, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani stressed “the necessity of continuing dialogue with Taliban because boycott only leads to polarisation and reactions, whereas dialogue could bring in positive results.”

In the spirit of diplomacy, Tamim said Qatar agreed years ago to host the Taliban’s political leadership in exile because “we were confident that war offers no solution and that there would be dialogue in the end”.

Countries such as the US and Japan have relocated their diplomatic staff in Afghanistan to Qatar to continue diplomacy from there.

Uzbekistan, another country neighbouring Afghanistan, has resumed the supply of oil and electricity to the war-torn country, according to president Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

“It is impossible to isolate Afghanistan and leave it within the range of its problems,” he said in remarks at the UN on Tuesday, also calling for a permanent UN Committee on Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s foreign minister told reporters at UN headquarters that Taliban rulers should understand that if they want recognition and assistance in rebuilding the war-battered country “they have to be more sensitive and more receptive to international opinion and norms”.

The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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