The Taliban have nominated its top spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Nations. The Taliban have also requested the international body for its permission to address the world leaders at the on-going annual UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
In a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi made the request to address the General Assembly on Monday. The letter could prove to be ominous for Ghulam Isaczai, the UN ambassador in New York representing the Wester-backed Afghan government that the Taliban overthrew last month.
Guterres’ spokesperson Farhan Haq has confirmed receiving Muttaqi’s letter. The spokesperson said that the Taliban’s letter said that Isaczai’s mission “is considered over and that he no longer represents Afghanistan.”
Haq said a nine-member credentials committee featuring the US, China, and Russia will evaluate the rival requests for Afghanistan’s seat at the UN. The Bahamas, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and Sweden are also on the committee.
It is unlikely that the committee will convene for the issue before the end of the General Assembly meeting on Monday. Therefore, it is highly improbable that the Taliban foreign minister Muttaqi will address the world body at this year’s General Assembly.
The committee traditionally meets in October or November. At the meeting, the committee evaluates the credentials of all UN members before it submits a report to the General Assembly for approval before the end of the year. Diplomats said that the committee and General Assembly usually operate by consensus on credentials.
General Assembly rules say that until the credentials committee decides, Isaczai will remain Afghanistan’s envoy to the UN. Isaczai is scheduled to address the final day of the meeting on September 27. It remains to be seen if any countries will object to his address in the wake of the Taliban letter.
Taliban know that the eventual UN acceptance of the Taliban envoy is going to be an important step in their bid for international recognition. The international recognition may prove to be key in unlocking the frozen assets and international aid for the cash-strapped Afghan economy.
Since the Taliban takeover, UN Chief Guterres has maintained that the Taliban’s desire for international recognition is the only leverage the international community had to press the group to form an inclusive government and respect the rights of women and the minorities in Afghanistan.
During the Taliban’s rule between 1996 and 2001, the UN kept the Afghan ambassador appointed by the pre-Taliban government after the credentials committee deferred its decision on rival claims to the seat.
At the time, the committee said that it had postponed the decision “on the understanding that the current representatives of Afghanistan accredited to the United Nations would continue to participate in the work of the General Assembly.”