PARIS: The United States and Israel have decided to quit the United Nation (UN)’s cultural agency UNESCO, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli bias.
According to the US State Department, the withdrawal of Washington reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement
Washington has already withheld its funding for UNESCO since 2011, when the body admitted Palestine as a full member. The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians. Washington’s arrears on its $80 million annual dues since then are now over $500 million.
The decision by the US was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He announced that Israel would quit too, calling the U.S. decision “brave and moral”.
Netanyahu maintained that the Paris-based organisation has been taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
“Today is a new day at the U.N., where there is price to pay for discrimination against Israel,” he said.