US Will Withdraw From Unesco, Citing Its 'Anti-Israel Bias'
13 October, 2017, 00:42 | Author: Christina Hansen
The US is pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, accusing it of "anti-Israel" bias.
Heather Nauert, US state department spokesperson, said on Thursday the US would establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency.
The outgoing head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, called the USA withdrawal a "loss to multilateralism", while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said through a spokesman that he "regrets this development deeply".
The outgoing UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, expressed her "profound regret" at the USA decision and tried to defend the reputation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the decision would take effect on December 31, 2018.
"Universality is critical to UNESCO's mission to strengthen global peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity", she wrote.
"The US relationship with Unesco is a matter for them".
"At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues", Bokova said in the statement.
She said the US pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for worldwide alliances.
Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. The department also voiced concerns about an anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.
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Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters. It extended membership to Palestine in 2011.
The resolution also criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
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.
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