The United States will be exiting the United Nations’ cultural organization UNESCO due to an alleged “anti-Israel” prejudice, according to RT.
Unesco is known for naming world heritage sites including Syria’s Palmyra and the Grand Canyon in the United States.
The U.S. Department of State announced the country will formally leave on December 31.
“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,” said the State Department, saying that the United States would seek to “remain engaged … as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives, and expertise.”
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called the United States’s departure a matter of “profound regret.”
“Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity,” said Bokova in a statement.
— Irina Bokova (@IrinaBokova) October 12, 2017
In a statement Thursday, Bokova said: “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.”
Bokova said that in 2011, when the US pulled funds from the organization, “I was convinced UNESCO had never mattered as much for the United States, or the United States for UNESCO.”
The United States stopped funding the organization after it recognized the Palestinian National Authority as a member in 2011.
The States are a founding member of UNESCO but withdrew in 1984 because of “a growing disparity between US foreign policy and UNESCO goals.”
In October 2003, after a break of 19 years, the U.S. re-joined UNESCO.
“As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning,” said George W. Bush, who was president at the time, when declaring the country would re-enter UNESCO.
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