PARIS — The State Department says the U.S. is pulling out of UNESCO because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and need for “fundamental reform” of the U.N. cultural agency.
In a statement, the State Department said it notified UNESCO director Irina Bokova on Thursday of the decision. The U.S. will seek to have a “permanent observer” status instead.
It says the withdrawal will take effect Dec. 31, 2018. The United States suspended its UNESCO funding in 2011 over its vote to include Palestine as a member, and now owes about $550 million in back payments.
U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but an internal U.S. government deliberation.
The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said U.S. is notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.