U.S., Is­rael to exit UN agency

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

PARIS — The U.S. an­nounced Thurs­day it is pulling out of the UN’s ed­u­ca­tional, sci­en­tific and cul­tural agency be­cause of what Wash­ing­ton sees as its anti-Is­rael bias and a need for “fun­da­men­tal re­form” in the agency.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said Is­rael plans to fol­low suit.

While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had been pre­par­ing for a likely with­drawal from UNESCO for months, the tim­ing of the State Depart­ment’s state­ment was un­ex­pected. The Paris­based agency’s ex­ec­u­tive board is in the midst of choos­ing a new chief

— with Qatar’s Ha­mad bin Ab­du­laziz al-Kawari lead­ing the heated elec­tion head­ing into Fri­day’s vote.

Out­go­ing Di­rec­tor­Gen­eral Irina Bokova called the U.S.’s planned de­par­ture a loss for “the United Na­tions fam­ily” and for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. The U.S. and UNESCO mat­ter to each other more than ever now with “the rise of vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism,” she said.

The U.S. stopped fund­ing UNESCO af­ter it voted to in­clude Pales­tine as a mem­ber state in 2011, but the State Depart­ment has main­tained a UNESCO of­fice and sought to weigh in on pol­icy be­hind the scenes.

Ne­tanyahu said the agency had be­come a

“the­atre of the ab­surd.”

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