New Delhi: The US and its ally Israel have announced to withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accusing the body of “anti-Israel bias”.
The decision follows years of tension at the organization which it accused of having an “anti-Israel bias.”
“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,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The United States has walked out of the 195-member organization once before under ex-president Ronald Reagan, who quit in 1984 over alleged financial mismanagement and claims of anti-US bias in some of its policies.
President George W. Bush announced that America would return as a member in 2002, but relations soured again in 2011 when Barack Obama stopped the funding to the body after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member.
Washington opposes any move by UN bodies to recognize the Palestinian territories as a state and firmly back its ally Israel.
In a statement announcing its withdrawal, Israel called the Trump administration’s decision “courageous and moral” accusing the UN body of becoming a “theatre of the absurd” after a series of resolutions condemning the Jewish state.
Washington’s withdrawal is set to take effect on December 21, 2018, when it will establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the agency.
Israel and UNESCO have been at loggerheads after it decided to admit Palestine as a member in 2011.
In July, the UN body declared the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank an endangered World Heritage site which forced the Israeli PM Netanyahu to announce a $1m cut in funding to the UN, as the UNESCO vote ignored Jewish ties to the site.
UNESCO is known for its work to preserve heritage, including maintaining a list of World Heritage sites, and programmes to promote education in developing countries.