The United States Now Plans to Leave UNESCO

VN exits race for UNESCO chief position

As well as accusing UNESCO of bias, the USA state department said it was also concerned about mounting financial arrears at the agency and said it should be reformed.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government is committed to continued United Kingdom membership of Unesco and to working with other member states in support of its important work".

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.

The State Department says its decision came down to debts and the need for reform in the agency.

The decision also drew ire from progressive voices on social media.

In July, the agency again delighted Palestinians when it declared the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank an endangered World Heritage site.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave formal notification of the U.S. withdrawal on the grounds of "continuing anti-Israel bias" and "mounting arrears".

And in 2015, Unesco adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship".

Behind them in the secret ballot was an Egyptian career diplomat, Moushira Khattab, with 13 votes, and Tang Qian of China with five, according to results posted on Unesco's website.

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.

Washington has also protested against UNESCO's decision to grant full membership to Palestine, deciding to suspend regular payments to the organization in 2011.

A statement released by the PM's office said that Netanyahu had instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel's withdrawal from UNESCO.

Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

"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.

Francois Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the decision was probably motivated by Trump's desire to send a message of support to Israel and underlined his "America First" policies. In the US, listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. "This is a loss for multilateralism". This is a loss to the United Nations family.

Former president Ronald Reagan quit the organization altogether in the 1980's. The U.S. rejoined it in 2003.

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