US to pull out of Unesco, citing anti-Israel bias
Decision underlines Washington drifting away from international institutions
Paris: The United States said on Thursday that it was pulling out of the UN’s culture and education body, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias” in a move that underlines Washington’s drift away from international institutions. Following years of tension at Unesco, which is in the process of electing a new director-general, US state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced that Washington planned to withdraw.
Paris, Oct. 12: The United States said on Thursday that it was pulling out of the UN's culture and education body, accusing it of "anti-Israel bias" in a move that underlines Washington's drift away from international institutions.
Following years of tension at Unesco, which is in the process of electing a new director-general, US state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced that Washington planned to withdraw.
"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 antiIsrael bias at Unesco," she said in a statement.
The United States has walked away once before under ex-president Ronald Reagan, who quit Unesco in 1984 over alleged financial mismanagement and claims of anti-US bias in some of its policies.
President George W. Bush announced America's return in 2002, but relations soured again in 2011 when Barack Obama pulled the plug on funding to the body after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member.
Washington opposes any move by UN bodies to recognise the Palestinian territories as a state, believing that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal. But President Donald Trump's administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an "America First" policy that has allies in Europe worried.
"Unesco is about promoting our ideals and values through culture, education and science," France's UN ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters in New York, adding that "we need an America that stays committed to world affairs." Israel, which remains a Unesco member, said the move by the Trump administration marked a "new era" for the United Nations and showed there was a "price to pay for discrimination against Israel". The US decision, first reported by foreign policy magazine, comes as European powers face another setback in their efforts to lobby Trump to respect Washington's international commitments.
In June, he said he would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, and later this week he is set to accuse Iran of failing to respect a nuclear deal negotiated by world powers in the same year -- taking the opposite view of his allies.
The outgoing head of Unesco, Irina Bokova, called the US withdrawal a "loss to multilateralism", while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said through a spokesman that he "regrets this development deeply". — AFP
Prince William and Bill Henry “Willie” Apiata, former Corporal in the New Zealand Special Air Service and Victoria Cross awardee, perform a traditional greeting during a commemoration of the WWI Battle of Passchendaele at Tyne Cot cemetery in Zonnebeke, Belgium, on Thursday.
A deserted Unesco headquarters in Paris on Thursday.