Sunday, 22 October, 2017

Britain stresses Unesco commitment after USA withdraws over Israel bias

VN exits race for UNESCO chief position US withdraws from UNESCO
Isaac Mcdaniel | 13 October, 2017, 00:41

The United States said Thursday that it was pulling out of the UN's culture and education body, accusing it of "anti-Israel bias" in a move that underlines Washington's drift away from global institutions.

"This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects USA concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO", the Department of State's press release said.

Other members of the council said his withdrawal would help to pool votes for the remaining candidates, which would mean fewer chances for more tied results as witnessed in the previous two rounds. Unesco was dependent on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, then about $70 million a year.

The outgoing UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, expressed her "profound regret" at the US 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.

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.

She called the USA departure a loss for "the United Nations family" and for multilateralism, saying the US and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now to better fight "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism".

The US withdrawal was also motivated by a desire to stop accruing arrears to the agency, Foreign Policy magazine reported.

The US stopped paying dues to the worldwide body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million, a State Department spokesperson said.

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"At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack", Bokova said.

Under the Reagan Administration, the USA quit UNESCO in 1984, at the time accusing the agency of a pro- Soviet Union bias.

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

Trump pulled U.S. out of UNESCO.

In the statement, Netanyahu hailed the United States move as a "courageous and moral decision".

The resolution also criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote "another delusional decision" by UNESCO, which promotes education, cultural development and free media initiatives around the world.

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