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US, Israel to exit UNESCO over its alleged anti-Israel bias

US, Israel to exit UNESCO over its alleged anti-Israel bias

He says he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision to leave UNESCO "brave" and "moral".

Bokova says that Washington's decision stripped UNESCO of 23 USA cultural heritage sites, along with over 30 natural biosphere reserves.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave formal notification of the U.S. withdrawal on the grounds of "continuing anti-Israel bias" and "mounting arrears".

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 US pulled out of the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO on Thursday, citing a need for reform and what it said was "anti-Israel bias".

Washington is also seeking reform of the top United Nations rights body and is leveraging its membership to exclude human rights violators from gaining seats in the Human Rights Council, and to curb criticism against Israel.

While the United States announced its decision to withdraw from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue to be engaged with Unesco to provide American perspective and expertise, but as a non-member observer.

The reality, though, is bit a more complex, as the U.S. and UNESCO have actually been at loggerheads since 2011.

Netanyahu "welcomes the decision by President (Donald) Trump to withdraw from UNESCO".

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Although it's tempting to dismiss the withdrawal as another display of the Trump administration's United Nations -bashing, there's certainly room to criticize UNESCO.

In notifying UNESCO of the decision Thursday morning, the State Department said it would like to remain involved as a nonmember observer state.

Indeed, this decision by the U.S. could very well foreshadow further retrenchment of USA engagement with the United Nations system in general, in the face of the administration's call for changes to its structural and financial arrangements.

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

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 2011 the USA and Israel were two of only 14 nations out of 194 UN members who voted against the inclusion of Palestine.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a Thursday statement expressed "profound regret" at the country's decision to withdraw from UNESCO. The Reagan administration withdrew from the organisation in 1984 - accusing the agency of corruption and an ideological bias towards the then Soviet Union - but the United States rejoined in 2002.

Israeli and USA media have reported that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is compiling a list of companies that operate in the West Bank, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.

The race for leadership position in the UN's cultural body came down to five candidates after a third round of voting on Wednesday, leaving former culture ministers France's Audrey Azoulay and Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari as the frontrunners.

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


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