UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday voiced "deep regret" over Israel's decision to withdraw from the agency.
Noting that she had received official notice from the Government of Israel's withdrawal from the agency effective on Dec. 31, 2018, a decision which was announced on Oct. 12 this year, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay expressed regret, saying she was convinced that it "is inside UNESCO and not outside it" that States can best seek to overcome differences in the its fields of competence.
"A Member of UNESCO since 1949, Israel has a rightful place inside the United Nations agency that is dedicated to education, culture and science," she continued, adding that Israel has a rightful place inside an institution committed to the defence of freedom of expression, the prevention of all forms of antisemitism and racism, which has developed a unique program of education about the Holocaust and the prevention of genocide.
Israel also has a rightful place inside an institution that is among the most active in promoting dialogue among cultures, fighting violent extremism and conserving heritage affected, notably, by the destructive acts of terrorist organizations.
"In the face of disagreements among Member States, which lead to votes for which they are responsible, engaging fully in the work of UNESCO makes possible sustained dialogue, cooperation and partnerships that are more necessary than ever and that I committed to support when I took office," Azoulay concluded.
Tensions had been bubbling since UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, a move opposed by the United States and Israel, who argue that any recognition of Palestinian statehood must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.
The U.S. Department of State on Oct. 12 notified former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO.
Pursuant to Article II(6) of the UNESCO Constitution, U.S. withdrawal will take effect on Dec. 31, 2018. The United States will remain a full member of UNESCO until that time.