US, Israel pull out of Unesco

UNITED NATIONS: The Trump administration said Thursday it is pulling out of Unesco, citing concerns of an “anti-Israel bias” and other problems at the cultural organization.

The withdrawal will take place at the end of next year, according to a State Department statement.

“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,” according to the statement.

The State Department said it planned to “remain engaged” with the organization as a non-member observer state.

The withdrawal is mostly symbolic, since it cut off funding to the organization under the Obama administration and the bills keep piling up.

The US stopped funding the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011.

The Reagan administration withdrew from the organization in 1984, but President George W. Bush brought the United States back into the group in 2002.

The move highlights the Trump administration’s skepticism of the United Nations. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has been critical of the world body.

One of Unesco’s core missions is the World Heritage program, which protects historic and cultural sites. It also runs a number of educational programs.

Irina Bokova, the director general of Unesco, said it was “regrettable” that the United States has decided to withdraw from the organization.

“At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack,” she said.

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