US withdraws from UNESCO over ‘anti-Israel bias’

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The United States has announced its plan to withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) over “anti-Israel bias”.

Heather Nauert, state department spokeswoman, who disclosed this on Thursday, said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s outgoing director-general, had been informed of the decision.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Nauret said from the end of 2018 when the withdrawal will take effect, the US would be involved as a non-member observer of the agency.

In 2011, UNESCO members granted Palestine full membership of the body despite opposition from Israel. This did not go down well with the US.

Some of the United States’s closest allies are among UNESCO’s 195 members.

UNESCO was established after World War II to help promote the free flow of information. It is perhaps best known for the World Heritage programme, which helps preserve cultural sites of import around the globe.

President Donald Trump’s administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an “America First” foreign policy.

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