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Afghanistan envoy withdraws from General Debate, will not address UNGA session

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United Nations, Sep 27: Afghanistan will not address the General Debate of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Monday after the country's Permanent Representative, appointed by the ousted Ashraf Ghani-government, withdrew his participation from addressing the world body on the final day of the high-level week.

Afghanistan envoy withdraws from General Debate, will not address UNGA session

According to the latest list of speakers for the last day of the General Debate Monday, Afghanistan and Myanmar are not listed to address the session, even as previous provisional speakers' lists had the countries' diplomats listed to speak at the General Debate.

When asked why Afghanistan and Myanmar are not listed as speakers for the final day of the General Debate, Monica Grayley, Spokesperson to the President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid, confirmed to PTI that: "we have received information that the Member State withdrew its participation in the General Debate which was scheduled for today". Grayley said Myanmar withdrew its participation "some time back and Afghanistan over the weekend, when we heard of it."

On Friday, spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric had said that "as for now, the Afghanistan representative inscribed on the list for Monday is H.E. Mr. Ghulam M Isaczai," the Permanent Representative. Isaczai, who has continued to sit at Afghanistan's seat at the United Nations, withdrew his participation over the weekend. Isaczai has continued to represent Afghanistan at the UN in the days after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August.

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During the opening of the UN General Debate Tuesday, as US President Joe Biden addressed world leaders from the General Assembly podium, Isaczai sat in Afghanistan's seat in the UNGA Hall. Last week, the Taliban had written to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominating their spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN and had asked to participate in the high-level 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

Following the coup in Myanmar, its military rulers have said the country's Ambassador at UN Kyaw Moe Tun has been dismissed and they want Aung Thurein to replace him. Given that the current dispensation in both Myanmar and Afghanistan nominated their own envoys to the UN, while the Permanent Representatives of the toppled governments continued to be stationed here, the decision of who represents the two countries at the United Nations fell to the UN Credentials Committee.

On September 20, on the eve of the commencement of the high-level UN General Debate, the Secretary-General had received a communication with the letterhead "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs" dated September 20, 2021, signed by "Ameer Khan Muttaqi" as "Minister of Foreign Affairs", requesting to participate in the "76th session of the UN General Assembly on September 21-27 2021". Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said that the letter also indicates that as of August 15, 2021, "Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is ousted and [countries across the world] no longer recognize him as president".

Ghani, who had fled the country as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, had appointed Ghulam Isaczai as Kabul's envoy to the UN in June 2021. The Taliban letter further indicates that the mission of the Permanent Representative is considered over and that Isaczai no longer represents Afghanistan. The Taliban have nominated the Doha-based spokesman Shaheen as Afghanistan's new Permanent Representative to the UN.

"A new Permanent Representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, is nominated," according to the Taliban letter. Haq said that on September 15, the Secretary-General had received a communication from the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations signed by Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai, the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations in New York, containing the list of delegation of Afghanistan for the 76th session of the General Assembly. Isaczai is listed as the head of the delegation.

These two communications have been sent by the UN 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, Haq added. The Credentials Committee will decide on who represents Kabul at the UN and the two communications have set the stage for a showdown over who sits at Afghanistan's seat in the 193-member world organisation.

The Credentials Committee, appointed at the beginning of each regular session of the General Assembly, consists of nine members, who are appointed by the General Assembly on the proposal of the President. The Committee is currently chaired by Sweden and includes the US, China, Russia, Bahamas, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Bhutan and Chile.

The Committee normally meets in November and no meeting of the Credentials Committee is currently scheduled, making it unlikely that a decision on the Taliban nominee would have been taken before the end of the week-long General Debate. The Committee reports to the Assembly on the credentials of representatives of the UN Member States.

As per the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, "the credentials of representatives and the names of members of a delegation shall be submitted to the Secretary-General, if possible, not less than one week before the opening of the session. The credentials shall be issued either by the Head of the State or Government or by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Afghanistan had joined the UN on November 19, 1946 and Myanmar has been a UN member since April 19, 1948.

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