PARIS (AP) - The Latest on the U.S. decision to pull out of UNESCO (all times local):
Netanyahu said Thursday that UNESCO has become a “theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
He says he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.
The United States announced on Thursday that it is pulling out of UNESCO because of what the Trump administration sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform.” It says the withdrawal will take effect Dec. 31, 2018.
Nikki Haley called the agency’s designation of Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many “foolish actions” that led to the United States’ decision to pull out of UNESCO.
Haley says the U.S.’s view from 1984 when President Ronald Reagan also withdrew from UNESCO holds true today: “U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense.”
She said: “The United States will continue to evaluate all agencies within the United Nations system through the same lens.”
In addition to the actions in Hebron, Haley singled out “keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters.”
Danny Danon said in a statement that the United Nation’s education, cultural and scientific agency now knows that its “absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences.”
Danon added: “The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever.”
Tatiana Dovgalenko, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the agency, told The Associated Press that the departure of “one of the countries that founded the U.N. system” is “a shock and a pity.”
However, Dovgalenko insists there won’t be a power vacuum.
She said: “Countries like us and China have our influence already.”
Director-general Irina Bokova said in a statement that the departure is a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. She said the U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now because “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security.”
A native of Bulgaria, Bokova defended UNESCO’s reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism. She traced the decades-long U.S. ties with UNESCO, and noted that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the U.N. agency.
In a statement, the State Department said it notified UNESCO director Irina Bokova on Thursday of the decision. The U.S. will seek to have a “permanent observer” status instead.
It says the withdrawal will take effect Dec. 31, 2018. The United States suspended its UNESCO funding in 2011 over its vote to include Palestine as a member, and now owes about $550 million in back payments.
U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but an internal U.S. government deliberation.
The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said U.S. is notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.
While the U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The withdrawal was confirmed Thursday by U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to be publicly named discussing the decision. It was not clear when the move would be formally announced.
The decision comes as the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is voting to choose a new director this week, in tense balloting overshadowed by the agency’s funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership.
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