• Sunday, June 26, 2022

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Raab defends his priorities amid calls to quit

File photo of British justice secretary Dominic Raab leaving Downing Street. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

AMID mounting calls for his resignation for declining to speak to his Afghan counterpart at a crucial time last week, Dominic Raab on Friday (20) defended his action, saying he was “rightly” focussing on his priorities.

The British foreign secretary was holidaying on the Greek island of Crete on Friday (13), when he was advised by UK’s senior foreign office officials to contact Afghan foreign minister Haneef Atmar to evacuate interpreters who helped British forces and others. But Raab chose to delegate the job to junior minister Zac Goldsmith.

Atmar refused to speak to someone regarded as being of inferior status, resulting in a delay in the communication between the countries when the Taliban was closing in on Kabul, Mail Online reported.

Raab is also accused of not speaking to key UK ambassadors in Pakistan or Uzbekistan or regional ambassadors in London before the weekend when the Afghan crisis was deepening.

The foreign secretary, however, defended his action in a statement posted on the UK government website on Friday (20), claiming that he was prioritising the security of Kabul airport at that time.

“The whole of Government has been working tirelessly over the last week to help as many people evacuate from Afghanistan as possible. The UK Government’s overriding priority has been to secure Kabul airport so that flights can leave”, he said.

“On Friday afternoon, 13 August, advice was put to my Private Office (around 6 pm Afghan time) recommending a call to the Afghan Foreign Minister. This was quickly overtaken by events. The call was delegated to a Minister of State because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the Director and the Director General overseeing the crisis response. In any event, the Afghan Foreign Minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation.

“The Government’s approach to prioritise security at the airport was the right one. As a result, 204 UK nationals and their families, Afghan staff and other countries citizens were evacuated on the morning of Monday 16 August. Since then, 1,635 have been evacuated. I pay tribute to the excellent team we have in place, and we continue to prioritise what is required to evacuate people to the UK safely”.

Opposition Labour demanded his immediate resignation.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said prime minister Boris Johnson should dismiss Raab from his job.

“If Dominic Raab doesn’t have the decency to resign, the prime minister must show a shred of leadership and sack him,” she told The Guardian.

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