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US ditching UNESCO signals crisis in international relations — presidential council chief

The head of the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Society hoped that the US will again return to the organization

MOSCOW, October 13. /TASS/. Washington’s decision to abandon the UN cultural organization, UNESCO, points to a crisis in the system of international relations, head of the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Society, Mikhail Fedotov, said on Friday.

"The US withdrawal from UNESCO is another ominous sign of a deep crisis within the system of international relations, which for decades has relied on the rule of international law and good faith relations among the leading powers," Fedotov told TASS.

UNESCO’s key mission is to contribute to building peace founded on mankind’s intellectual and moral solidarity, he recalled. "Unfortunately, the US defiant withdrawal from UNESCO does not bring us closer to building this peace, this is a clear step backwards," Fedotov stressed.

The Russian human rights official said he has "mixed feelings" about Washington’s decision. First, the United States like the United Kingdom and Singapore had already pulled out of UNESCO, and then returned to the organization, he noted. Second, the US has been refusing to pay its dues to UNESCO for several years, driving it into a deadlock and punching a hole in its budget.

"This withdrawal would allow the (budget) gap to be closed, as it will help to distribute the current deficit of funds among all member-states, and this cannot be done until it (the US) has left it."

In the 1980s, the US withdrawal from UNESCO was linked to excessive politicization of the organization, Fedotov said. "Now the real reason for the pullout is its non-politicization, and to a greater degree - the Americans’ accrued financial debt before it," he said.

Fedotov hoped that the US will again return to the organization.

On Thursday, the United States announced its withdrawal from UNESCO citing "mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO." According to a statement issued by US Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert, "US withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018."

Later on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also ordered to prepare his country’s withdrawal from UNESCO.

In 2011, the US refused to take part in financing UNESCO after Palestine joined it as a full-fledged member. Later Israel followed suit. As a result, the international organization lost 22% of its funding.