United States withdraws from UNESCO

UNESCO and Jerusalem

USA officials have told The Associated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated criticism of resolutions by the U.N. cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said she received official notification from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, adding she expressed "profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO".

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. U.S. envoy to the UN Nikki Haley made the Trump administration's position clear in July following UNESCO's ruling that the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City of Hebron is a Palestinian World Heritage Site threatened by Israel.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for UNESCO by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of UNESCO by senior U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

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It says the withdrawal will take effect December 31, 2018.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after the agency voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at the agency's Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes.

US officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but an internal USA government deliberation. The move was announced by Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the state department.

If it does withdraw from UNESCO, the U.S. would remain as an observer state in meetings.

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