World

Taliban names UN envoy, seeks to address world leaders

September 22, 2021
Mohammad Suhail Shaheen
Mohammad Suhail Shaheen

NEW YORK -- Afghanistan's Taliban rulers want to address world leaders at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this week and nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as the country's new UN ambassador.

The world body said the Taliban leaders are challenging the credentials of their country's former UN envoy.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received a communication on Sept. 15 from the currently 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 “Ameer 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as of Aug. 15 and that countries across the world “no longer recognize him as president,” and therefore Isaczai no longer represents Afghanistan, Dujarric said.

The Taliban said it was nominating a new UN permanent representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, the UN spokesman said. He has been a spokesman for the Taliban during peace negotiations in Qatar.

Senior US State Department officials said they were aware of the Taliban’s request but they would not predict how that the UN credentials body might rule on the dispute. However, one of the officials said the committee “would take some time to deliberate,” suggesting 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.

In cases of disputes over seats at the United Nations, the General Assembly’s nine-member credentials committee must meet to make a decision. Both letters have been sent to the committee after consultations with General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid's office. The committee's members are the United States, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Sweden.

Afghanistan is scheduled to give the last speech on the final day of the high-level meeting on Sept. 27. It wasn't clear who would speak if the committee met and the Taliban were given Afghanistan's seat.

When the Taliban last ruled from 1996 to 2001, the UN refused to recognize their government and instead gave Afghanistan’s seat to the previous government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who eventually was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011

The Taliban have said they want international recognition and financial help to rebuild the war-battered country. But the makeup of the new Taliban government poses a dilemma for the United Nations. Several of the interim ministers are on the UN’s so-called blacklist of international terrorists and funders of terrorism.

Credentials Committee members could also use Taliban recognition as leverage to press for a more inclusive government that guarantees human rights, especially for girls who were barred from going to school during their previous rule, and women who weren't able to work. -- Agencies


September 22, 2021
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