US declares that it will pull out of UNESCO, cites ‘anti-Israel’ bias

Source:AFP Published: 2017/10/12 23:42:58

The US said Thursday that it was pulling out of the UN's culture and education body, accusing it of "anti-Israel bias" in a move criticized by the head of the Paris-based organization. 

Following years of tension at UNESCO, which is in the process of electing a new director-general, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced that Washington planned to withdraw. "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO," she said in a statement.

The US - one of the body's founding members - has withdrawn once before under president Ronald Reagan.

President George W. Bush announced America's return in 2002, but relations soured again in 2011 when Washington pulled the plug on funding to the body after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member. Washington opposes any move by UN bodies to recognize the Palestinians as a state, believing that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.

UNESCO head Irina Bokova said that "at the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the US to withdraw from the UN agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack."

UNESCO has been the scene of diplomatic flare-ups in recent years after Arab countries succeeded in passing a number of resolutions critical of Israel.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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