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Taliban name UN envoy, ask to address world leaders

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The Taliban says it has named its spokesman Suhail Shaheen as its ambassador to the UN. AFP

Taliban name UN envoy, ask to address world leaders

The Taliban’s new foreign minister has asked to address world leaders at this week’s UN General Assembly meeting in the US city of New York, a UN spokesman said on September 21.

The ambassador of the Afghan government ousted by the Taliban last month has also requested to speak, with the UN yet to decide who will represent the country at the world body.

A nine-member credentials committee will now rule on the duelling requests, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told AFP, but it is unclear whether the committee will meet before the end of the convocation on September 27.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres received a letter from Taliban-appointed Amir Khan Muttaqi “requesting to participate” in the high-level debate, Dujarric said.

It was dated September 20 – the day before the session got underway – and listed Muttaqi as “Minister of Foreign Affairs”, he added.

The letter did not specify whether Muttaqi wanted to travel to New York to speak or whether the Taliban would submit a recorded video message, as many leaders are doing this year due to Covid-19.

The letter also indicated that Ghulam Isaczai “no longer represents” Afghanistan at the UN.

He was the ambassador to the UN of the Afghan government ousted from power in August as US military troops exited the country, ending their 20-year war.

The letter said the Taliban had nominated their Doha, Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s permanent representative to the UN.

The note, which had the letterhead “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, said former president Ashraf Ghani was “ousted” on August 15, the day he fled the country.

“Countries across the world no longer recognise him as president,” the letter said, according to the UN.

The UN spokesman also said the secretary-general had received a separate letter from Isaczai, dated September 15, containing the list of Afghanistan’s delegation for the session.

That letter listed Isaczai as Afghanistan’s permanent representative, Dujarric said.

“These two communications have been sent by the secretariat, after consultation with the office of the president of the General Assembly, to the members of the credentials committee of the 76th session of the General Assembly,” he said.

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

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 some have made positive noises.

“The pragmatic, political view is that there is a new reality. And if you want to ignore that, that’s your choice,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi, foreign minister of the Taliban’s historic backer Pakistan told reporters on September 20, stopping short of calling for legal recognition.

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