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Israel and US exit Unesco

media Unesco headquarters, Paris Unesco headquarters, Paris REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

The United States and Israel have officially pulled out of Unesco, in line with a decision made in 2017 in protest against what they maintain is an unfairly criticial attitude towards Israel.

The US announced that it was reviewing its ties with Unesco after the organisation's decision in July 2017 to recognise the old city of Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian world heritage site. The decision sparked outrage from Israel.

Israel has frequently denounced what it sees as bias in the organisation, which exists to promote and preserve education, science and culture around the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Unesco "a theatre of the absurd where history is deformed rather than preserved."

A senior Unesco diplomat told the French newspaper Le Figaro, that since Israel and the US had announced their intentions to leave, Unesco had put in place numerous mediation channels between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations at the organisation. Several members of the US Unesco delegation recognised that the situation had improved and expressed their regret at the decision to leave.

A member of the US State department said Washington would continue to support international co-operation in education science and culture.

A Unesco source maintained that the departure of the US and Israel would not impact on the organisation's budget and that other donators had stepped forward to give financial support.

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