Washington: The United States today announced to stop financial contribution to UNESCO after the UN body voted to admit Palestine as its full member, which the Obama Administration termed as regrettable and premature.
"Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers long-standing legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.
"We were to have made a $60 million payment to UNESCO in November, and we will not be making that payment," Nuland said. The total American annual contribution to UNESCO is $80 billion which is more than one-fifth of its budget.
The State Department's announcement in this regard came soon after the White House termed it as premature.
Today's vote at UNESCO to admit the Palestinian Authority as a member, is premature and undermines the international community's shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters.
"Today's vote distracts us from our shared goal of direct negotiations that result in a secure Israel and an independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security," Carney said in response to a question.
I mean, not unlike the issue of membership as we discussed, the path to peace is through direct negotiations, and we support measures and steps that bring the two sides closer to direct negotiations, which is the only way to resolve the differences between them, said the White House spokesperson.
Echoing White House, Nuland said today's vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is regrettable, premature, and undermines their shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
"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 realised through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians," she said.
"The United States also remains strongly committed to robust multilateral engagement across the UN system. However, Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers long -standing legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO," she said.
One of America's main concern is that such a development creates tensions, when they should be concerting their efforts to get the parties back to the table, she said.
"Our concern is that this could exacerbate the environment which we're trying to work through so that the parties will get back to the table," she said.
"We want to continue working with UNESCO because we believe that UNESCO advances US interests, advances US values, a whole list of programs that UNESCO is responsible for that we support, including literacy training for Afghan police and army cadets, tsunami early warning, nurturing and protecting journalists across the Middle East and Africa, conducting large-scale teacher training efforts throughout Africa," Nuland said.
"So we want to continue to work with UNESCO, including remaining on UNESCO's executive board, and we will continue our efforts to try to win reelection to UNESCO's governing board. But we are not going to be able to continue contributing to the budget.
And, you know, under UNESCO's rules, if this continues for some two years, there could be implications for our membership status," Nuland said.
Under UNESCO rules, a member country tends to lose its voting rights if it does not pay its dues for more than two years. "It could have implications for our voting rights.
Under UNESCO's constitution, a member state will have no vote in the general conference if it gets more than two years in arrears in its contribution. So our actual arrear age status will begin in January," she said.
Updated Date: Nov 01, 2011 07:54 AM