US, Is­rael pulling out of Unesco

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - – AFP

PARIS – The United States and its ally Is­rael said Thurs­day they were pulling out of the United Na­tions’ cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion body, in a move that un­der­lined Wash­ing­ton’s drift away from in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

The US de­ci­sion, an­nounced in Wash­ing­ton, fol­lows years of ten­sion at the or­ga­ni­za­tion which it ac­cused of hav­ing an “anti-Is­rael bias.”

“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,” US State De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said.

The United States has walked out of the 195-mem­ber or­ga­ni­za­tion once be­fore un­der ex-pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, who quit 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 rec­og­nize the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries as a state, be­liev­ing 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.”

But Nauert said that the cost to the United States of re­main­ing a mem­ber had also in­flu­enced the de­ci­sion.

“As many of you know, we were in ar­rears to the tune of $550 mil­lion or so. And so the ques­tion is, you know, do we want to pay that money? And do we want to pay more money go­ing for­ward,” she said.

Nauert noted that there is a US law which for­bids the gov­ern­ment to pay mem­ber­ship dues to any or­ga­ni­za­tion that rec­og­nizes Pales­tinian state­hood.

“So that’s part of it, fi­nan­cially, OK? Sec­ond part of it is we’d like to see over­all UN re­form,” she added.

In a state­ment an­nounc­ing its own with­drawal, Is­rael called the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion “coura­geous and moral,” ac­cus­ing the UN body of be­com­ing a “theater of the ab­surd” af­ter a se­ries of res­o­lu­tions con­demn­ing the Jewish state.

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