Taliban attempts to speak in New York spark UN division

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The Taliban has requested the United Nations to let one of its envoys address world leaders during its annual General Assembly meeting in New York this week, in what is being perceived as a bid for international legitimacy.

The Taliban is also looking for funds for cash-strapped Afghanistan. The country’s previous western-backed government’s foreign reserves had been frozen after the US had pulled out. A number of sanctions have been imposed as well.

Taliban’s foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi made the request to speak at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday in a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

On Wednesday, Bilal Karimi, an aide to the Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, confirmed the group had sent the letter. Mr Guterres’ spokesperson, Farhan Haq, also confirmed he had received the letter from Mr Muttaqi.

The insurgent group has also nominated Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s UN ambassador. Mr Shaheen is the group’s Doha-based spokesperson.

Before the Taliban took over the country, Afghanistan’s UN envoy was Ghulam Isaczai. But the group claims that he no longer represents the country.

Mr Muttaqi’s letter to the UN Secretary-General had made it clear that Mr Isaczai’s mission was “over” and that “he no longer represents Afghanistan.”

The Taliban’s request to participate at the UNGA meeting is being considered by a credentials committee comprised of nine member states including the US, China and Russia, according to a UN spokesperson.

Bahamas, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Sweden are the other members.

The members, however, are unlikely to meet before Monday and so it looks unlikely the request will be granted.

Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Tuesday addressed world leaders during the UN meeting and urged them to stay engaged with the Taliban.

“Boycotting them would only lead to polarisation and reactions, whereas dialogue could be fruitful,” he said.

The UN had earlier said the Taliban’s desire for international recognition was the only leverage the world could use.

But until the credentials committee comes up with a decision, Mr Isaczai will continue to represent Afghanistan at the UN and is scheduled to address the world leaders on 27 September.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has raised questions over Mr Shaheen’s nomination. “Who is he representing?” asked Mr Qureshi.

During the Taliban’s earlier rule between 1996 and 2001, the envoy for the government they had toppled remained the UN representative as the credentials committee had deferred its decision then.

The Taliban, meanwhile, remain subject to the UN economic sanctions. The group had last month ignored the UN demands that women be included in the government.

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