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US, Israel to quit UNESCO

13 October 2017, 12:23 | Darnell Patrick

US, Israel to quit UNESCO

The Colosseum Rome

UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes internationally.

The agency's board members are set to vote this week to elect a new director-general, with Arab candidates from Qatar and Egypt vying with a French competitor.

In addition to anti-Israel bias, the department cited "the need for fundamental reform" and "mounting arrears" at the organization. Under the Reagan Administration, the United States quit UNESCO in 1984, at the time accusing the agency of a pro- Soviet Union bias.

The relationship is now set to end December 31, 2018, and the U.S. will remain a full member of UNESCO until then. And in 2015, Unesco adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship".

UNESCO has become a poster child for how United Nations agencies have had their missions perverted by the anti-Israel agenda.

Earlier on Thursday, the United States formally notified the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that it would withdraw from the organization on December 31, 2018.

The decision to withdraw from UNESCO, which the United States helped found, was announced Thursday morning by the State Department, which said the United States would remain involved as a nonmember observer. The government stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to prepare for Israel to leave UNESCO in parallel with the US", according to his office.

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One of UNESCO's founding nations, the United States has had a rocky relationship with the Paris-based organization over the years.

Analysts said that actually withdrawing from the organization was a significant escalation by the United States in its criticism of United Nations bodies.

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

Behind them in the secret ballot was an Egyptian career diplomat, Moushira Khattab, with 13 votes, and Tang Qian of China with five, according to results posted on Unesco's website. President Ronald Regan pulled the country from Unesco in 1984, claiming the body was biased in favour of the Soviet Union.

But according to Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, the Trump administration found it to be a step too far when the agency decided this summer to designate "the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory". Heather Nauert, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said, She noted that the US expressed a desire to "remain engaged" with the organisation in order to "contribute US views, perspectives and expertise".

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep regret over the USA decision to leave UNESCO, according to Deputy UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq.

The US was a founding member of UNESCO.



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