UN speeches end with silence from Myanmar, Afghanistan

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 77th session of the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — For the second straight year, Afghanistan and Myanmar were silent at the U.N. General Assembly's leaders' meeting, which ended Monday with no representative of either government stepping forward to talk as the United Nations tries to resolve who should represent them.

At the annual high-level meeting of leaders, there was no speech from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, who now control the nation after a U.S. withdrawal last year, and no words from Myanmar, where a military junta toppled the civilian government last year and detained its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

For Afghanistan, it mirrored last year's assembly when the Taliban — in its second chapter of ruling the nation — tried to figure out how to interact with the United Nations.

Last month, the U.N. special envoy on Myanmar said she wouldn't visit the Southeast Asia nation again unless its military government allows her to meet with Suu Kyi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, including a three-year term with hard labor imposed last week for alleged election fraud.

Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021 from Suu Kyi’s elected government, plunging the country into what some U.N. experts have described as civil war. Critics say the charges subsequently brought against Suu Kyi and top figures in her Cabinet were fabricated to keep them out of politics.

In December, the U.N. delayed actions on both Afghanistan's and Myanmar's bid for seats. U.N. diplomats said then that the decision to delay the requests by Myanmar’s junta and the Taliban had wide support because of the actions of the two countries’ new rulers.

Myanmar and Afghanistan didn't go entirely unmentioned Monday. Bharat Raj Paudyal, foreign secretary of Nepal, brought up both of them.

“Afghanistan has remained on the precipice of uncertainty and violence," he noted, and asked all parties in Myanmar to "respect the will of the people to elect their representatives.”

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