United States withdraws from UNESCO over "anti-Israel bias"

United States withdraws from UNESCO over

The Associated Press reports the move is based on UNESCO's inherent anti-Israel bias.

Israel has also announced today that they will be quitting the United Nations agency, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision by the USA "brave and moral".

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

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington's move as heralding "a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

She said "politicisation" had "taken its toll" on the organisation in recent years.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO's outgoing director-general, said she "deeply regrets" the decision and is convinced that "UNESC has never been so important for the U.S., or the USA for UNESCO" given the rise of what she called violent extremism and terrorism in the world.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government is committed to continued United Kingdom membership of Unesco and to working with other member states in support of its important work".

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Washington's withdrawal is set to take effect on December 21, 2018, when it will establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the agency.

Hours after the U.S. announced its withdrawal, the Israel joined in, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he had instructed his foreign ministry to begin preparations to leave.

Phạm Sanh Châu, Vietnamese candidate for the director-general position of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), chose to withdraw his name prior to the third round of voting on Wednesday. "Ideally, it steers it in way that USA interests and UNESCO's mandate will converge".

Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. "The organisation's absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences". The city, one of the world's oldest, sits in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The U.S. stopped making payments to the agency in 2011, but maintained an office at its Paris headquarters in the hopes of encouraging a change of course from behind the scenes. The US more than $US80m of funding to the agency amid the furore over Palestinian membership six years ago, but continued to be charged, and now owes more than $US500m, the magazine said. Trump has also criticized America's contributions to United Nations institutions as disproportionate - not only 22% of the UN's regular budget but also 28% of its peacekeeping. The US funds 22 percent of the UN's regular budget and 28 percent of United Nations peacekeeping.

President George W. Bush announced America's return in 2002, but relations soured again in 2011 when Barack Obama pulled the plug on funding to the body after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member.

"The objective of UNESCO is a good one", US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement.

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