The United States Now Plans to Leave UNESCO

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington Wednesday

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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".

"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 said.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington's move as heralding "a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

UNESCO is best known for its work to preserve heritage, including maintaining a list of World Heritage sites, and programmes to promote education in developing countries. And in 2015, Unesco adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship".

"This is a loss for multilateralism", said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a statement.

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Bokova released a statement in light of the news.

Nauert said the state department had notified Bokova of their decision earlier on Thursday.

The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

The US stopped paying dues to the worldwide body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million, a State Department spokesperson said.

The third round saw the breakthrough of French candidate Audrey Azouley, who secured 18 out of 58 votes of the UNESCO Executive Board, sharing top spot with Qatari candidate Hammad bin Al-Kawari.

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Calling the agency's work "key to strengthen the bonds of humanity's common heritage in the face of forces of hatred and division", she noted the value of World Heritage cites in the USA, such as the Statue of Liberty, as being not just as a defining USA symbol but that it speaks for people across the world.

She said the USA pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for global alliances.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep regret over the USA decision to leave UNESCO, according to Deputy UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq.

For President Trump and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the recognition of world heritage sites in the Palestinian territories, like Hebron and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the 2015 resolution and another in 2016, showed an anti-Israel bias. It was submitted by the Palestinians and was supported by 24 countries, with six opposing it and 26 abstaining. The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

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