Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
World Media | By June Phelps

United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

Washington said it would establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the agency.

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 U.S.is preparing to leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in December, according to a new report. After he was elected but before he became president, Mr. Trump made an extraordinary intervention on the world stage by criticizing the Obama administration's decision not to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israeli settlements.

UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot.

Tensions have flared again in recent years: in 2011, the United States stopped funding the agency after UNESCO voted to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member; two years later, the USA lost its vote due to these financial cuts. The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians. The US has not paid its dues to the organization since then, raking up a bill of over $500 million in debt to the organization.

The 2016 resolution condemned Israel's "escalating aggressions" regarding a holy site in Jerusalem's Old City, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

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It's not the first time the USA has pulled out of UNESCO: Washington did the same thing in the 1980s because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests.

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.

An Arab-backed UNESCO resolution past year condemned Israeli's policies at religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But the United States has at times had an ambivalent relationship with the Paris-based organization.

"The partnership between UNESCO and the United States has been deep, because it has drawn on shared values", Bokova stressed.

And senior Trump administration officials - including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley - have been critical of the organization. The president has touted an "America First" policy, which puts US economic and national interests ahead of global commitments.

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AIPAC gives thumbs up to Trump's withdraw from UNESCO.

"The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss". It will become a mere "observer state", with no dues paid and no contribution to how the organization is run.

Russia's former envoy to UNESCO told RIA news agency the agency was better off without the Americans.

She said "politicisation" had "taken its toll" on the organisation in recent years. "Since 2011 they have practically not been paying to the budget of this organisation".

The candidate from Egypt, Moushira Khattab, bagged the third spot with 13 votes, while Chinese candidate Qian Tang and Lebanese Vera El Khoury received five and four votes, respectively. One will be eliminated after another vote by 58-member Executive Council on Friday.

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