President Trump’s administration on Thursday announced that the U.S. is leaving a major United Nations (U.N.) agency due to what it sees as anti-Israel bias and needed changes.
The State Department in a statement cited “the need for fundamental reform” in the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The agency added that the move will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead.
U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision as the result of an internal government deliberation.
The officials added that the U.S. is angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish ties to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.
“[It’s] the unfortunate politicization of the mandate of UNESCO, where anti-Israel bias has been a major factor and something the U.S. has been struggling to address,” said Chris Hegadorn, the U.S. Charge d’Affaires and ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO.
“The accrual of arrears since 2011 since the admission of Palestine as a member state had been mounting,” Hegadorn added.
UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage program which protects cultural sites and traditions around the globe.
The State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to influence the organization behind the scenes.
The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO in 2011, however, after it voted to include Palestine as a member state.
Washington, D.C., pulled America out of UNESCO during the 1980s, arguing it was corrupt, poorly managed and used to advance Soviet interests.
The U.S. rejoined UNESCO in 2003, and it currently owes approximately $550 million in back payments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.