US Pulls UNESCO Funding After Palestinian Vote

The United States announced Monday it would no longer fund the United Nation’s cultural agency, UNESCO, after the group voted to allow Palestine admission as a full member.

The United States will not make the scheduled $60 million payment to the agency in November, US State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland said.

The move is a result of a U.S. law, which prohibits sending funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes a Palestinian state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.

It is unclear how the reduction in funding will affect UNESCO’s ability to continue current programs and what effect it will have on U.S. influence within the world community.

Money from the U.S. amounts to about a fifth of the organization’s annual budget.

U.S. lawmakers have been opposed to the Palestinian bid to be recognized by the U.N.

“Today’s reckless action by UNESCO is anti-Israel and anti-peace,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

“It rewards the Palestinian leadership’s dangerous scheme to bypass negotiations with Israel and seek recognition of a self-declared ‘Palestinian state,’ and takes us further from peace in the Middle East,” she added.

It is unclear how the recent developments will affect Palestine’s ability to be accepted into other U.N. organizations.

The U.N. Security Council is slated to vote next month on whether to allow the Palestinians full U.N. membership.

The vote to approve the Palestinian membership in UNESCO passed Monday by a 107 to 14 margin, with 52 countries abstaining.

The U.S., Israel, Canada and Germany voted against the measure, while almost all the Arab, Latin American, African and Asian nations, including China and India, voted in favor.

Palestinian officials plan to call on UNESCO to recognize the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Voice of America reported.

UNESCO helps fund and maintain more than 900 sites worldwide as part of the World Heritage Fund.

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