New UNESCO chief brushes off US pullout

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

UNESCO’s new chief on Mon­day brushed aside the US’ de­ci­sion to walk out of the UN cul­tural body, say­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion had sur­vived long pe­ri­ods with­out Wash­ing­ton be­fore.

For­mer French cul­ture min­is­ter Au­drey Azoulay, elected on Fri­day to head UNESCO, said the US was “not the be­gin­ning and end” of the agency.

The US and Is­rael both an­nounced their pullout last month, ac­cus­ing UNESCO of “anti-Is­rael bias.”

Azoulay said Wash­ing­ton’s de­ci­sion was not “a com­plete sur­prise, bear­ing in mind the US’ cur­rent po­si­tion on mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.”

“It’s a sov­er­eign de­ci­sion by a state that I re­spect, but which at the same time is not the be­gin­ning and end of UNESCO,” she told France In­ter ra­dio. “There have been long pe­ri­ods at UNESCO with­out the US, which ul­ti­mately came back.”

She added she did not think quit­ting was in the US’ in­ter­est and said UNESCO would con­tinue “work­ing with Amer­i­can civil so­ci­ety, Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties and Amer­i­can sci­en­tists.”

The US walked out of the 195-mem­ber or­ga­ni­za­tion once be­fore in 1984 over al­leged fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment and claims of anti-US bias.

It re­turned in 2002, but in 2011 then pres­i­dent Barack Obama cut off fund­ing af­ter UNESCO’s mem­bers voted to ad­mit Pales­tine as a full mem­ber.

US ally Is­rael sim­i­larly pulled the fund­ing plug, leav­ing UNESCO short of more than 20 per­cent of its bud­get.

Both coun­tries an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 12 that they were leav­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion out­right af­ter a se­ries of res­o­lu­tions con­demn­ing Is­rael.

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