Friday 24 March 2017

UN culture body loses US funds over Palestinian membership

Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem

THE United States has stopped funds to the UN's cultural arm after it defied the White House by voting overwhelmingly to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

Throwing the future of the body into doubt, the US State Department announced a halt to funding of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) hours after it became the first UN body effectively to grant statehood to the Palestinian people.

Despite the US threat of a financial boycott, just 14 states voted against, with 107 supporting the bid. The bill easily cleared the two-thirds majority needed for the Palestinian Authority to become a member of any UN body.

The result represented a significant victory for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. In accepting his application during an emotional vote at its headquarters in Paris, Unesco will pay a heavy price.

Washington provides the body with nearly €50m in annual funding, almost 22pc of its budget.

The state department said the payment to be made this month will now be withheld.

Under a US law, adopted in 1990 to prevent such an outcome, funding to any UN body that accepts a non-state entity as a member immediately stands forfeit.

The Obama administration accused Unesco of doing lasting damage to the Middle East peace process by rejecting US and Israeli demands to oppose the Palestinian bid. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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