World

United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

In a statement, Bokova said that "despite the withholding of funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful".

"At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues", she stated.

Ms Bokova's two terms as director have been deeply scarred by the 2011 Unesco vote to include Palestine as a member, funding troubles and repeated resolutions seen as anti-Israel. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments. It cited USA belief in "the need for fundamental reform in the organization". He said UNESCO had "turned into a theatre of the absurd; instead of preserving history, it twists it".

And past year, Israel suspended cooperation with it after the agency adopted a controversial resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is also planning to withdraw from the body, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's office.

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.

Danon said UNESCO has become "a battlefield for Israel and has ignored its true role and scope".

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She said the USA pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for worldwide alliances. With no funds forthcoming, the US lost its vote in the agency in 2013.

The United States said Thursday that it was pulling out of the UN's culture and education body, accusing it of "anti-Israel bias" in a move criticised by the head of the Paris-based organisation.

Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

UNESCO chief Bokova defended her agency's reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism — and saying that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the United Nations agency. The U.S. rejoined in 2003 under then-President George W. Bush.

The United States will remain a member, however, until the withdrawal takes effect on December 31, 2018. Heather Nauert, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said, She noted that the US expressed a desire to "remain engaged" with the organisation in order to "contribute US views, perspectives and expertise".

Its head, Irina Bokova, earlier called the U.S. withdrawal a matter of "profound regret".

The US was a founding member of UNESCO.