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US, Israel to quit UNESCO

15 October 2017, 01:02 | Violet Powell

The United States Withdraws From UNESCO - US Department of State

US withdraws from UNESCO, Iowa City the only 'City of Literature' recognized in US

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the USA for its historic decision to pull out of UNESCO and ordered Israel to also withdraw from the organization.

The United States announced on Thursday that it would be pulling out of the UN's educational, scientific and cultural agency (UNESCO) because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for "fundamental reform" in the agency.

Hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too, calling the USA decision "brave and moral".

"President Trump's decision is courageous and moral, because UNESCO has become a theatre of the absurd and because, rather than preserve history, it distorts it", the statement said.

The U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31 2018, the State Department confirmed.

The US State Department said it hoped to still maintain an observer mission at the Paris-based agency to provide an input on issues such as heritage protection, press freedom and education.

The country accused the body of "anti-Israel bias".

China will continue to actively participate in and support the work of UNESCO, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Friday.

The decision follows a string of UNESCO decisions that have drawn criticism from the U.S. and Israel.

This UNESCO withdrawal is the latest in a series of disengagement by Donald Trump's administration, which has been busily scrapping worldwide trade deals and other global arrangements as it seeks to fulfil the campaign promise to "Make America Great Again" and perhaps score public-relations points with its conservative base.

As Haley alluded to, the withdrawal is also motivated by United States budget concerns.

"[The US would] remain engaged... as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise".

The agency is known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria's Palmyra and the US Grand Canyon.

Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, expressed "profound regret" over the decision.

An Arab-backed UNESCO resolution past year condemned Israeli's policies at religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It also quoted a said a former European UNESCO ambassador saying, "It's an organisation that has been swept away from its mandate to become a sounding board for clashes that happen elsewhere, and that translates into political and financial hijacking".

The United States cancelled a significant budget contribution to the organization in 2011 in protest of a decision to grant full membership to the Palestinians. In May, Israel was infuriated by a resolution identifying Israel as "the occupying power" in the divided city of Jerusalem and calling on it to rescind any move changing the city's "character and status". This is a loss to the United Nations family.

After the 1984 withdrawal, for what was described as pro-Soviet Union bias, the USA rejoined in 2002 as part of an effort by the George W. Bush administration to emphasize a message of global cooperation.

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