Dispute between Taliban and former government envoy over who should speak at UN's annual meeting of world leaders ends up without a speech from Afghanistan.

Taliban had challenged credentials of ambassador from Afghanistan’s former government and asked to represent the country at this year's General Assembly summit.
Taliban had challenged credentials of ambassador from Afghanistan’s former government and asked to represent the country at this year's General Assembly summit. (Reuters)

The UN General Assembly drew to a close without a speech by Afghanistan after world powers intervened in disputes over who would represent it.

The Afghan ambassador appointed by ousted president Ashraf Ghani had been due to defy the Taliban with an address at the meeting that saw 100 leaders gather in New York despite coronavirus fears.

But Ghulam Isaczai's name was removed from the list of speakers early on Monday in a move that diplomats suggested had been brokered by Washington, Beijing, and Moscow after they did the same for Myanmar.

"I imagine" that there was an agreement struck by those three powers, an ambassador with a Security Council country told AFP news agency.

Another diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, described it as a "wise decision."

READ MORE: Taliban plea for UN recognition reveals a weak hand

Taliban says Isaczai doesn't represent Afghanistan

Last week, the Taliban wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that its new Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi be allowed to participate instead of Isaczai.

The group said that Isaczai, who had urged nations to "unequivocally state" that they would not recognise a Taliban government, "no longer represents" Afghanistan at the global body.

But diplomats at the UN said the request had come too late and Isaczai, still considered the head of Afghanistan's mission by the UN, appeared on a list of speakers sent out late on Sunday.

"The country withdraws its participation in the general debate," Monica Grayley, a spokeswoman for the assembly's president, told AFP, adding that the mission had not cited a reason for pulling out.

The withdrawal came after a high-level UN diplomat told AFP that an agreement had also been reached between the United States, Russia, and China preventing Myanmar's UN ambassador –– an outspoken supporter of the democracy movement –– from speaking.

READ MORE: World leaders face concern over regional conflicts at UNGA

Taliban seeks recognition 

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that as of Friday, Afghanistan's currently recognised UN ambassador, Isaczai, was listed as speaking for the country.

But, Dujarric told The Associated Press on Monday morning: "We were notified on Saturday by the Afghan Mission that they would no longer be speaking."

Last week Taliban nominated a new UN permanent representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen. 

He was a spokesperson for the Taliban during peace negotiations in Qatar.

"We have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government," Shaheen told the AP last Wednesday. 

"So we hope the UN, as a neutral world body, recognise the current government of Afghanistan."

Credentials committee

When the Taliban last ruled from 1996 to 2001, the UN refused to recognise their government and instead gave Afghanistan's seat to the previous, warlord-dominated government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. 

It was Rabbani's government that brought Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, to Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996.

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 — including Muttaqi — are on the UN's so-called blacklist of international terrorists and funders of terrorism.

When the credentials committee members do meet, they could 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.

The committee's members are the United States, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and Sweden.

Source: AFP