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Published: Sun, October 15, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

Following US, Israel to withdraw from UNESCO

Following US, Israel to withdraw from UNESCO

Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks when asked to comment on the decisions of the United States and Israel to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Currently, 23 places in the United States are on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, though nothing American appears in the organization's list of "intangible cultural heritage".

The United States says it will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of 2018 in what could be interpreted as a move to push the body to make fundamental changes being demanded by Washington.

Hours after the USA announced its withdrawal, the Israel joined in, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he had instructed his foreign ministry to begin preparations to leave.

A general view shows the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris on October 4, 2017. This is a loss for multilateralism. However States which are not members of the United Nations can be admitted to UNESCO upon recommendation of the Executive Board, by a two-thirds majority vote of the General Conference. Its unpaid obligations have now passed the US$500-million mark.

"There's a price to pay for discrimination against Israel; today is a new day at the UN", said Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said the decision makes "it clear that culture, history, world heritage isn't impt to [Trump], even if it is to Americans & world".

And in July, UNESCO declared the old city in Hebron, a West Bank town that includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a Palestinian World Heritage Site, a move Israel claims negates Judaism's links to the biblical town. With no sign that US concerns would be addressed, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chose to pull out after December 31, 2017, when the unpaid balance will top $600 million.

"The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute". United States has already withdrawn from UNESCO once, for similar reasons. America is now looking inward, and its willingness to quit a global accord like the Paris climate agreement and trade agreements like NAFTA are highly symbolic steps that send the message that the Trump administration feels comfortable wearing a protectionist coat.

The US responded by cutting off funding to any organisation that recognised independent Palestine and its 22 per cent share of the annual UNESCO budget, which was then US$80 million, was also suspended.

"At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack", she added.

Russia's former envoy to UNESCO told RIA news agency the agency was better off without the Americans. The Paris-based agency's executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief — with Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election heading into Friday's final vote.

France's Audrey Azoulay and Egypt's Moushira Khattab were tied in second.

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