US withdraws from UNESCO, cites ‘continuing anti-Israel bias’

The US State Department confirmed the country is officially withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body it helped found back in 1945. The move is to take effect on December 31, Washington announced.

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© Kenbay T. / whc.unesco.org

“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,” the State Department said in a Thursday statement cited by Reuters.

Washington will remain in the organization “as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise,” the statement said.
There has been no immediate comment from the US government.

Earlier, Washington officials told AP that the United States is withdrawing from UNESCO after repeated criticism of resolutions that the Trump administration perceived as anti-Israeli.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said she received official notification from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, adding she expressed “profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO.”

Washington’s move was “a loss for multiculturalism and the UN family,” she added.

The US stopped financing UNESCO after the organization moved to admit the Palestinian Authority as a member in 2011.

However, the State Department has maintained a mission at the agency’s Paris headquarters.

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