Afghanistan withdrawing from UN General Debate, their own decision: UN Spokesperson

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The decision by the Afghanistan delegation to withdraw participation from the UN General Debate “was their own decision”, a spokesperson for the Secretary General said, after the country’s envoy appointed by the ousted Ashraf Ghani-government withdrew participation from addressing the world on the final day of the high-level meet.

“The decision to withdraw from the Afghan delegation was their own decision. I can’t comment on that. Obviously the General Assembly high-level week is an opportunity for every member state to address the world in a sense, and we wish for every (of) those member states who have that opportunity to take it,” Spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing Monday.

Dujarric was responding to a question on Afghanistan’s withdrawal from participation at the UNGA and that no one will now be speaking for the country at the annual gathering of world leaders.

Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative at UN, Ghulam Isaczai was listed to speak on Monday at the final day of the UN General Debate but withdrew his participation over the weekend.

Last week, the Taliban had written to 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.

The letter to Guterres had also indicated that the mission of the Permanent Representative is considered over and that Isaczai no longer represents Afghanistan.

“It’s not so much of a conversation. We received a communication from them by e-mail that they wish to be taken out from the speaker’s list and we did. I mean it’s not so much of a dialogue as information, instruction from a permanent mission about how they want to be on the speaker’s list,” he said, on whether there was any conversation with the Afghan mission on their request to withdraw from the General Debate.

According to the latest list of speakers for the last day of the General Debate, 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.

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,” when asked on why Afghanistan and Myanmar are not listed as speakers for the final day of the General Debate.

Grayley said Myanmar withdrew its participation “sometime back and Afghanistan over the weekend, when we heard of it.”

On Friday, 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.

Ghani, who had fled the country as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, had appointed Isaczai as Kabul’s envoy to the UN in June 2021.

Even after the Taliban ousted the Ghani government, Isaczai continued to sit at Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations.

During the opening of the UN General Debate last week, as US President Joe Biden addressed world leaders from the General Assembly podium, Isaczai sat in Afghanistan’s seat in the UNGA Hall.

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 recognise him as president”.

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 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, 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.

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