Tuesday March 20, 2018 04:09 AM

US withdraws from Unesco

US withdraws from Unesco
This file photo taken on September 14, 2011 shows a logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) displayed in front of the organization headquartersAFP

The withdrawal will take effect December 31, 2018

The United States announced Thursday that it is to 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.

In a statement, the state department said it notified Unesco director Irina Bokova on Thursday of the decision. The US will seek to have a “permanent observer” status instead.

It says the withdrawal will take effect December 31, 2018. The United States suspended its Unesco funding in 2011 over its vote to include Palestine as a member, and now owes about $550 million in back payments.

US officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but an internal US government deliberation.

The officials, who were not authorised to be publicly named discussing the issue, said US is notably angry over Unesco resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.

‘Profound regret’

The head of Unesco Irina Bokova voiced “profound regret” over the decision which she called a “loss to multilateralism”.

“After receiving official notification by the US Secretary of State, Mr Rex Tillerson, as Unesco Director-General, I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from Unesco,” said Unesco director general Irina Bokova in a statement.

Bokova said, “Unesco will continue to work for the universality of this Organisation, for the values we share, for the objectives we hold in common, to strengthen a more effective multilateral order and a more peaceful, more just world.”

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