U.S. pulls out of United Nations cultural body, cites 'anti-Israel' bias

Taylor Byrd
October 13, 2017

The US is pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, accusing it of "anti-Israel" bias.

It will establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation, the state department said.

The UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák is also "concerned that the decision by the United States to withdraw could have adverse impacts upon the important work of UNESCO", according to a statement from his spokesperson.

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

The State Department briefly outlined its reasoning in a press release: "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects USA concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO".

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. "We deeply regret that the United States made a decision to leave UNESCO", the communique said.

And previous year, Israel suspended cooperation with it after the agency adopted a controversial resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem.

While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue providing American perspective and expertise to Unesco, but as a nonmember observer.

The Israel controversy re-ignited this summer after UNESCO named Hebron's city center a Palestinian World Heritage Site.

"This is another example of the Trump's administration's profound ambivalence and concern about the way the U.N.is structured and behaves, and it shows the administration's determination to separate itself from its predecessors", said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations.

Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

Việt Nam's bid for the leading position of a respectable global organisation such as UNESCO has made evident its commitment to actively contribute to the worldwide community.

In addition, the Trump administration's proposed budget for the next fiscal year contains no provision for the possibility that Unesco funding restrictions might be lifted. The city, one of the world's oldest, sits in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

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