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US cuts off UNESCO funding after Palestinian vote

October 31, 2011 20:34

Washington won't make planned $60 million transfer for UN cultural agency, State Department says; FM: Israel should cut ties with PA.

36th session of UNESCO

36th session of UNESCO. (photo credit:Reuters)

The United States said on Monday it had stopped funding UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the United States had no choice but to halt funding because of longstanding US law, saying Washington would not make a planned $60 million transfer that was due in November.

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"The United States remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, but such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians," continued Nuland. She condemned the vote as “creating tensions when all of us should be concerting our efforts to get the parties back to the table."

In response to the UNESCO decision, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday said that Israel should consider cutting all ties with the Palestinian Authority.

"My recommendations will be very clear," the foreign minister explained at an Israel Beiteinu faction meeting, "We need to weigh cutting all ties with the Palestinian Authority." He added, "we cannot continue to accept unilateral measures time after time."

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said in reaction that "UNESCO's decision to hold this vote today bypasses the Security Council and General Assembly and is an embarrassment to the United Nations. This agency does not have the mandate to recognize sovereign states."

"Today I contacted [US] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and called on them to act on their earlier statements and immediately halt all American funding to UNESCO," he added. "The US provides $70 million, or 22 percent, of UNESCO's annul budget. This financing is supposed to be used for science and education, not illegitimate unilateral declarations by the Palestinians."

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