The US says it is cutting funding to UNESCO in response to the UN cultural organization’s decision to admit Palestine as a full member.
Describing the decision as “regrettable and premature”, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Monday that Washington would stop all financial contributions to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which accounts for about 22 percent of its annual budget (roughlyUSD80 million).
Washington is currently UNESCO’s biggest source of funding.
“We are not going to be able to continue contributing to the budget. Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers longstanding legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO,” Nuland said shortly after the UN organization granted Palestine full membership despite strong opposition from Washington.
According to a US law passed in the 1990s, Washington is prevented from funding any UN-affiliated body that accepts Palestinian membership.
The US, Israel’s top ally, was scheduled to pay USD60 million to UNESCO in November.
Nuland, however, said that the US would maintain membership in the UN body. The US rejoined UNESCO in 2002, after having left the organization 19 years earlier.
Palestinians won the UNESCO seat in a Paris vote on Monday with 107 countries out of 173 voting in favor and 14 against the bid. Fifty-two abstained from vote.
US lawmakers have repeatedly urged the UN body to reject the membership request since its submission by Palestinian leaders earlier this month.
Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said that Palestinians UNESCO membership signals weakness in US diplomacy since some of Washington’s closest allies such as France voted in favor of the move.
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