US, Israel withdraw from UNESCO due to claims of anti-Israel bias
Email US, Israel withdraw from UNESCO due to claims of anti-Israel bias
Updated October 13, 2017 07:05:23Photo: The US stopped funding for UNESCO in 2011 after the organisation voted to include Palestine. (Reuters: Philippe Wojazer) Related Story: Israel slams 'delusional' UNESCO declaration that Hebron is 'Palestinian' Related Story: Netanyahu says Israeli government 'supports settlement' after Hebron incident Related Story: Israel cancels UNESCO membersh ip Map: United States
The United States is withdrawing from UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural and educational agency, the US State Department has said in a statement, citing anti-Israel bias and funding issues.
- Israel calls the move "brave and moral"
- The US pulled out of UNESCO in the 1980s then joined again in 2003
- UNESCO is best known or its World Heritage and cultural programs
"This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO," the department said, adding that the US would seek to "remain engaged â¦ as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise."
Hours after the announcement, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel was preparing to pull out of UNESCO as well.
The Israeli leader called the US decision to exit UNESCO "brave and moral", and added that instructions had been given to the Foreign Ministry to begin preparations for leaving the organisation.External Link: Benjamin Netanyahu tweets on US withdrawing from UNESCO
Washington has already withheld its funding for UNESCO since 2011, when the body admitted Palestine as a full member.
The US and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians.
Washington's arrears on its $US80 million ($100 million) annual dues since then are now over $US500 million ($640 million).
Although Washington supports a future independent Palestinian state, it says this should emerge out of peace talks and it considers it unhelpful for international organisations to admit Palestine until negotiations are complete.
UNESC O promoting 'fake history'
In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
"Today is a new day at the UN, where there is price to pay for discrimination against Israel," Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said.
Mr Netanyahu told world leaders at the UN General Assembly last month that UNESCO was promoting "fake history" after it designated Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart â" the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque â" as a "Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger".
An Arab-backed UNESCO resolution last year condemned Israeli's policies at religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
UNESCO expressed regret over the US's official decision to leave its organisation.
"After rec eiving official notification by the United States Secretary of State, Mr Rex Tillerson, as UNESCO director-general, I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO," UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said in a statement.External Link: Tweet: US departure from UNESCO
Ms Bokova added that the US decision marked a loss for multilateralism and for the UN family.
The announcement comes as UNESCO is voting to choose a new director this week, in tense balloting overshadowed by the agency's funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership.
Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the UN, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain remained committed to UNESCO.
"The Government is committe d to continued UK membership of UNESCO and to working with other member states in support of its important work," the spokesman said.
"But obviously the US relationship with UNESCO is a matter for them."
UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world.
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.
The Trump administration has been preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, and a decision was expected before the end of the year, according to US officials.
Several diplomats who were to have been posted to the mission were told that their positions were on hold and advised to seek other jobs.
The US pulled out of UNESCO in the 1980s because Washington viewed it as mismanaged and used for politic al reasons, then re-joined the organisation in 2003.
Topics: treaties-and-alliances, agreements-and-treaties, united-states
First posted October 13, 2017 01:20:58Source: Google News