Millennium Post - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: The United States has with­drawn from Unesco over what it claims is the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s “con­tin­u­ing anti-is­rael bias”.

The State Depart­ment an­nounced its in­ten­tion to with­draw from the UN’S cul­tural, sci­en­tific and ed­u­ca­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion and be­come a per­ma­nent ob­server in­stead.

“This de­ci­sion was not taken lightly, and re­flects US con­cerns with mount­ing ar­rears at Unesco, the need for fun­da­men­tal re­form in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, and con­tin­u­ing anti-is­rael bias at Unesco,” the State Depart­ment said in a state­ment. The coun­try hopes to re­main a non-mem­ber, ob­server state, in or­der to con­trib­ute US opin­ions and ex­per­tise on is­sues like press free­doms and pro­tect­ing world her­itage, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment.

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tller­son made the de­ci­sion sev­eral weeks ago, and an­nounced it to French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron in a meet­ing with Don­ald Trump late last month, ac­cord­ing to For­eign Pol­icy. The State Depart­ment hoped to de­lay the an­nounce­ment un­til af­ter Unesco selects a new di­rec­tor gen­eral this week. Unesco was funded in the wake of the Sec­ond World War, with the aim of en­sur­ing peace through the free flow of ideas and ed­u­ca­tion.

The US has with­drawn from the or­gan­i­sa­tion once be­fore, dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion. For­mer Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Re­gan with­drew the coun­try from Unesco in 1984, claim­ing it was bi­ased in favour of the Soviet Union.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush re­joined the or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2002. Se­nior Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials — in­clud­ing US Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley — have been crit­i­cal of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The US stopped fund­ing Unesco in 2011, af­ter the or­gan­i­sa­tion ac­cepted Pales­tine as a mem­ber.

Is­rael re­called its am­bas­sador to Unesco last year. The or­gan­i­sa­tion had re­cently adopted two res­o­lu­tions that Is­raeli lead­ers said ig­nored Ju­daism’s con­nec­tion with one of Jerusalem’s holi­est sites.

Is­rael’s re­la­tion­ship with Unesco had long been rocky, af­ter of­fi­cials ac­cused the body of mak­ing de­ci­sions out of po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions.

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