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United States withdraws from UNESCO over "anti-Israel bias"

13 October, 2017, 00:41 | Author: Greg Wolfe
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel plans to pull out of the United Nations' cultural agency following the "brave and moral" decision by the United States to withdraw from UNESCO.

It will establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation, the state department said.

Nikki Haley called the agency's designation of Hebron's Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many "foolish actions" that led to the United States' decision to pull out of UNESCO.

UNESCO is a body of the United Nations that promotes worldwide cooperation in education, science, culture and communication, though it is perhaps best known for its designation of "world heritage" sites - locations with particular cultural significance.

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the USA owes UNESCO.

Tensions have flared again in recent years: in 2011, the United States stopped funding the agency after UNESCO voted to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member; two years later, the USA lost its vote due to these financial cuts.

She paid tribute to what she said had been a meaningful relationship between UNESCO and the U.S., saying: "since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful".

In a statement, Bokova said that "despite the withholding of funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful".

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US officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries.

The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

The third round saw the breakthrough of French candidate Audrey Azouley, who secured 18 out of 58 votes of the UNESCO Executive Board, sharing top spot with Qatari candidate Hammad bin Al-Kawari.

The organization has a long history of taking anti-Israel measures, and supporting resolutions against the Jewish state.

Nauert also clarified that, in accordance with the charter of UNESCO, the decision on "the U.S. withdrawal will enter into force on December 31, 2018". After he was elected but before he became president, Mr. Trump made an extraordinary intervention on the world stage by criticizing the Obama administration's decision not to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israeli settlements.

The US decision, first reported by Foreign Policy magazine, comes as European powers face another setback in their efforts to lobby Trump to respect Washington's worldwide commitments.

In 2011 the U.S. cut its funding to the agency - slashing its budget by 22 percent - in protest at its decision to grant full membership to the Palestine.

The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately poor countries and in scientific fields, to promote better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust and to defend media freedom, among other activities.

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