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UNESCO: United States planning to rejoin UNESCO organisation

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PARIS (Reuters) -The United States plans to rejoin the UNESCO organisation from this July onwards, UNESCO announced on Monday.

The United States withdrew from the U.N. cultural agency in December 2018 under President Donald Trump over accusations of anti-Israel bias and mismanagement.

“It is a strong act of confidence in UNESCO and in multilateralism”, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement announcing the rejoining of the U.S.

UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park.

The proposed plan must now be submitted to the General Conference of UNESCO Member States for approval and some member states have called for an extraordinary session to be held soon to decide.

The United States provided one-fifth of the Paris-based agency’s funding, but Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama stopped paying in 2011 when Palestine became a full member because such funding is barred by U.S. law. Washington owed $542 million when it quit.

U.S. laws prohibit funding to any U.N. agency that implies recognition of the Palestinians’ demands for their own state.

An agreement reached at the U.S. Congress in December 2022 makes it possible for Washington to re-start financial contributions to UNESCO.

Meanwhile, Azoulay – who was elected in 2017 and then vouched to restore the agency’s efficiency and trust – has introduced reforms in recent years to address the reasons Washington left.

Israel also withdrew from UNESCO at the same time as the United States.

The United States initially joined UNESCO at its founding in 1945 but withdrew for the first time in 1984 in protest against alleged financial mismanagement and perceived anti-U.S. bias, returning almost 20 years later in 2003 under President George W. Bush, who then said the agency had undertaken needed reforms.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Charlotte Van Campenhout;Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, William Maclean)

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