United States pulls out of UNESCO, alleges anti-Israel bias

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria

Paris-based UNESCO, which began work in 1946, is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park.

While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue to be engaged with Unesco to provide American perspective and expertise, but as a nonmember observer.

The United States plans to withdraw from UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural and educational agency, diplomats said on Thursday, dealing a further blow to an organization hobbled by regional rivalries and a lack of funds.

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This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects USA concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.

The US stopped financing UNESCO after the organization moved to admit the Palestinian Authority as a member in 2011.

A plan to withdraw from the worldwide body was reportedly made several weeks ago, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informing French President Emmanuel Macron of America's imminent departure.

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The Trump administration has been preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, and a decision was expected before the end of the year, according to U.S. officials.

While the USA 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.

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