In a surprise move, the Trump administration announced Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from the United Nations agency that works to protect cultural and natural heritage sites around the globe.
(Reuters ed no: 4185)
"This venue has become politicized, undermining the work of UNESCO across its mandate. It's become a venue for anti-Israel bias, and unfortunately we are taking the decision to withdraw from UNESCO at this time."
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said she regretted Washington's decision, and that the UN's cultural and educational agency needed the U.S. in order to fulfill its wide mandate from promoting education to eradicating poverty.
The U.S. actually stopped paying into the institution during the Obama administration after UNESCO recognized the Palestinian Authority as a member. Before that, the U.S. provided about a fifth of UNESCO's funding.
Its withdrawal will take effect on December 31st next year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later on Thursday that Israel was also preparing to pull out of the organisation.
In response, Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party comprising of mostly secular intellectuals, told Al Jazeera News, the decision demonstrates the Trump administration's "complete and total bias" towards Israel.
The latest move makes UNESCO the third major international body that the Trump administration has withdrawn from, following the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Accord.
The Iran nuclear deal and NAFTA are also on shaky ground.
Ji Myung-kil, Arirang News.