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Israel officially announces withdrawal from UNESCO

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This October 12, 2017 photo shows the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. (AFP photo)

The head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has confirmed receiving Israel's official letter announcing the regime's withdrawal from the UN cultural body.

In a Friday statement, Audrey Azoulay expressed deep regret over Israel's decision, saying the withdrawal is set to take effect on December 31, 2018.

"It is inside UNESCO and not outside it" that differences can be resolved, she said.

On October 12, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his foreign ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from UNESCO, accusing the UN body of “anti-Israel bias.”

In 2017, UNESCO adopted two Arab-sponsored resolutions against Israel, with one referring to Israel as "the occupying power" in Jerusalem al-Quds and the other declaring the Old City of al-Khalil (Hebron) as a Palestinian World Heritage site.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay speaks at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on November 10, 2017. (AFP photo)

Tel Aviv’s October move came just a few hours after US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced that the White House would withdraw from the Paris-based agency, citing growing “arrears” at UNESCO, the need for “fundamental” reform in it and its “continuing anti-Israel bias.”

Nauert added that the US withdrawal would take effect on December 31 this year.

The US also pulled out of the 195-member agency in 1984 during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, accusing it of being biased in favor of the former Soviet Union. Former US President George W. Bush rejoined UNESCO in 2003.

However, Washington stopped funding the body in 2011, after the organization recognized Palestine as a full member. The US and Israel at the time were among just 14 of 194 members that opposed the membership of Palestine in the international organization.

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