USA and Israel to withdraw from UNESCO

USA and Israel to withdraw from UNESCO

While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue providing American perspective and expertise to Unesco, but as a nonmember observer.

The United States is pulling out of Unesco after repeated criticism of resolutions by the UN cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel.

Commenting on the move, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed it as "a fearless and moral decision".

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

Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will also withdraw from the agency, which had become a "theatre of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it".

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Washington has also protested against UNESCO's decision to grant full membership to Palestine, deciding to suspend regular payments to the organization in 2011. "Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment", Haley said in a statement.

The Trump administration and Israel have voiced concern over a series of Unesco decisions, including the listing of the city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site. The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

But according to Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, the Trump administration found it to be a step too far when the agency decided this summer to designate "the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory".

Since 2011, United States arrears to the organization have reached about $600 million, Ms. Bokova said, but she had told members of Congress repeatedly that immediate payment was not an issue, only American political re-engagement in the organization, which she believes serves many American interests overseas.

UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes internationally. The organization was established in 1945 with its headquarters in Paris.

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"Among other efforts, UNESCO is committed to building the capacity of various individuals and stakeholders to develop and amplify innovative responses against extremism; all while promoting the protection of freedom of expression, privacy and other fundamental freedoms", Bokova wrote in a CNN op-ed in September.

The US has long used UNESCO as a stage for political gestures: In 1984, the Ronald Reagan withdrew the US from UNESCO, accusing it of being pro-Soviet, anti-Israel, and anti-free market. This is a loss to the United Nations family.

"This is a loss to UNESCO", she added.

"Universality is critical to UNESCO's mission to strengthen worldwide peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity", she said in a statement.

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