U.S., Is­rael quit UNESCO over al­leged bias

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - NEWS - JOHN IR­ISH

The United States and Is­rael an­nounced on Thurs­day they were quit­ting the UN’s cul­tural agency UNESCO, af­ter Wash­ing­ton ac­cused it of anti-Is­raeli bias.

The with­drawal of the United States, which is meant to pro­vide a fifth of UNESCO’s fund­ing, is a ma­jor blow for the Paris-based or­ga­ni­za­tion, founded af­ter the Sec­ond World War to help pro­tect cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage around the world.

UNESCO is best known for des­ig­nat­ing World Her­itage Sites such as the an­cient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon Na­tional Park.

“This de­ci­sion was not taken lightly, and re­flects U.S. con­cerns with mount­ing ar­rears at UNESCO, the need for fun­da­men­tal re­form in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, and con­tin­u­ing anti-Is­rael bias,” State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said.

Hours later, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said Is­rael would quit too, call­ing the U.S. de­ci­sion “brave and moral.”

UNESCO Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Irina Bokova ex­pressed her dis­ap­point­ment: “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.

“This is a loss to the United Na­tions fam­ily. This is a loss for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.”

Wash­ing­ton has al­ready with­held its fund­ing for UNESCO since 2011, when the body ad­mit­ted Pales­tine as a full mem­ber. The United States and Is­rael were among just 14 of 194 mem­bers that voted against ad­mit­ting the Pales­tini­ans. Wash­ing­ton’s ar­rears on its $80-mil­lion an­nual dues since then are now more than $500-mil­lion.

Although Wash­ing­ton sup­ports a fu­ture in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state, it says this should emerge out of peace talks and it con­sid­ers it un­help­ful for in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions to ad­mit Pales­tine un­til ne­go­ti­a­tions are com­plete.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.