Taliban asks to send UN envoy to General Assembly

Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s interim foreign minister, at a press conference in Kabul on 14 September. Muttaqi sent a letter to the UN asking for a Taliban envoy to address the General Assembly in New York. (Credit: Keystone/EPA/STRINGER)

The Taliban have asked to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week and put forward a representative as Afghanistan’s new UN envoy, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

The group made the request in a letter to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on Monday and asked to speak during the high-level meeting. The move challenges the credentials of Chulam Isaczai, the current UN ambassador in New York representing Afghanistan's ousted government.

Questions over who will represent Afghanistan at the body have been raised since the Taliban captured power on 15 August after weeks of fighting. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said his office had received communication from Isaczai on 15 September listing the names of Afghanistan's delegation for the assembly's meeting.

Less than a week later, Guterres received a rival request from Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban's appointed minister of foreign affairs, asking to participate during the annual session, where Afghanistan is scheduled to address world leaders on 27 September – the final day of the high-level meeting.

In the letter, the Taliban said it was nominating Mohammed Suhail Shaheen, a former spokesman for the group in Qatar, as its new UN permanent representative.

In situations where UN seats are disputed, the decision falls on the General Assembly's credentials committee, made up of the United States, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Sweden.

US diplomatic officials told AP they were aware of the Taliban's request but said the committee “would take some time to deliberate”, and it is not clear whether they will meet before Monday when Afghanistan is due to speak.

No government has so far recognized the Taliban government, the makeup of which has caused an international outcry for its hardline, all-male cabinet. Several of the interim ministers are on the UN's list of international “terrorists and funders of terrorism”.

During the Taliban's former rule between 1996 and 2001 the UN refused to recognize the government. Instead, it gave Afghanistan's seat to the previous ousted government.

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