U.S. and Israel to withdraw from UNESCO

VN exits race for UNESCO chief position
US withdraws from UNESCO
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13 October, 2017

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voiced "profound regret" on Thursday over the United States' decision to withdraw from the agency.

The United States - one of the body's founding members - has withdrawn once before under president Ronald Reagan, who quit in 1984 over alleged financial mismanagement and anti-US bias in some of its policies.

The "Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

The Israeli leader called the United States decision to exit UNESCO "brave and moral", according to a statement.

The US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO complaining about how it is run and about what Washington described as bias against Israel.

At the time, Netanyahu said the "absurd" vote denied the Jewish connection to the city.

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.

UNESCO is a body of the United Nations that promotes worldwide cooperation in education, science, culture and communication, though it is perhaps best known for its designation of "world heritage" sites - locations with particular cultural significance.

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In 2011 the U.S. cut its funding to the agency - slashing its budget by 22 percent - in protest at its decision to grant full membership to the Palestine.

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.

In October, Israel suspended its co-operation over a draft resolution referring to the Old City of Jerusalem as part of "the cultural heritage of Palestine".

Ms. Bokova, in a telephone interview, said she "thought the decision was coming but why now, I don't know, in the midst of elections" for a new director to replace her.

Praising Trump's decision as "brave and moral", Netanyahu said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare for Israel's withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans. She called Washington's step a "loss to multilateralism". This is a loss to the United Nations family.

"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", she said in an extensive statement Thursday.

The US pulled out of Unesco in the 1980s because Washington viewed it as mismanaged and used for political reasons, then rejoined it in 2003.


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