Following the decision of Palestine being allowed full membership in UNESCO, US has announced to cut down the funds of UN’s cultural arm as a result of defying the warnings of America and Israel.
The session, which was unusually dramatic, witnessed the motion being approved by an extensive majority. The resolution was passed in Paris, at the UNESCO headquarters, among the cheers and grumbles of the voting parties.
The infuriated US officials declared that Washington is withdrawing its share of funds which was to be $US60 million, amounting to almost a quarter of the overall budget of UNESCO.
In September, Palestine submitted a bid to the Security Council, and UNESCO is the first UN agency that the country has decided to join after that. Result of full UN membership will come out next month.
Earlier, the decision which was made through voting was greeted with loud applause by the 107 countries that voted in favor. The 14 countries that voted against the act included United States, Australia, Israel, Canada and Germany. It was a surprise for everyone when France voted ‘yes’, and the decision was followed by loud cheers. All Asian, Arab, Latin American and African countries followed suit, along with Austria and Ireland while 52 countries abstained from voting, including Japan, New Zealand and UK.
UNESCO’s membership is seen by the Palestinian authorities as a step that will help them in getting recognized internationally and also for putting pressure on Israel for their demands.
Riyad al-Malki, Palestinian foreign minister, who was also present at the time of voting, showed his happiness at the results. The decision is considered to be a historic moment for Palestine and a symbolic victory. “The vote will erase a tiny part of the injustice done to the Palestinian people”, al-Malki said after the announcement of result. On the contrary, the vote is not enough to make Palestine a state, as the concern for borders remains unresolved, along with other disputes which have mutilated peace in the Middle East for years.
Some parties are even of the view that it will be even harder for Palestine to achieve its goals which includes security for the country, placement of Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem.
Jay Carney, White House spokesman, regarded UNESCO’s judgment a ‘premature’ act. He also said that this move has played its part in undermining the efforts of international community to carry on with an effective peace plan for Middle East. He also called it as a hindrance in the goal which was to restart peace talks between Palestine and Israel.
Nimrod Barkan, the Israeli Ambassador, talked about the decision saying, “UNESCO deals in science not science fiction”. “However, a large number of member states, though most emphatically less than two-thirds of the member states of this organization, have adopted a science fiction version of reality”, he further commented.
Full membership of UNESCO has given Palestine options to seek membership of other UN agencies such as the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency. One of the very first moves of Palestine as a result of UNESCO membership could be an application to list Church of Nativity in Bethlehem as a world heritage site.
This vote has opened up Palestine to take steps for gaining international recognition which will pave their way to achieve statehood. Victoria Nuland, Washington State Department spokesman told the reporters that the United States will continue to be a member of UNESCO and its participation in the organization, which comes up to around 22% of its annual funds.
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