US withdraws from UNESCO

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A picture taken on October 12, 2017 shows the logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris. The United States said on October 12, 2017 that it was pulling out of the UN’s culture and education body, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias” in a move that underlines Washington’s drift away from international institutions. / AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON

The United States announced Thursday that it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, accusing the body of “anti-Israel bias.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington would establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency.

The United States was angered in 2011 when UNESCO members granted Palestine full membership of the body, despite opposition from its ally Israel.

Washington opposes any move by UN bodies to recognize the Palestinians as a state, believing that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.

But US President Donald Trump’s administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an “America First” foreign policy.

Nauert said the State Department had notified UNESCO’s outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova of their decision earlier Thursday.

“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,” she said in a statement.

“The United States indicated to the director-general its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”

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