'Re think' membership. Clinton
Photo: AFP
Mahmoud Abbas - back door to statehood?

Clinton warns UNESCO of loss of US funds

US secretary of state says UN cultural agency could lose tens of millions of dollars if it agrees to admit Palestine before Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is concluded

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the UN cultural agency UNESCO should "think again" on plans to vote on Palestinian membership, noting that such a move could cause the United States to cut funds for the organization.


Clinton, speaking to reporters in the Dominican Republic where she was on an official visit, said she found it "inexplicable" that UNESCO would consider moving ahead on a Palestinian vote while the issue was still before the United Nations Security Council.


Related stories:  

"I ... would urge the governing body of UNESCO to think again before proceeding with that vote because the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups that are subsidiary to the United Nations," Clinton said.


Other US lawmakers also warned the UN cultural agency that it stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in funding if it agrees to admit Palestine as a member before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is concluded.


Two top members of the House panel that oversees such funding say the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization could lose roughly $80 million in annual US contributions if it follows the recommendation of its board and admits Palestine.


Over US objections, the UNESCO board voted earlier Wednesday in Paris to recommend Palestine's membership. A vote from the full body is expected later this month.


The US provides 22% of UNESCO's budget but was in the clear minority on the 58-member UNESCO executive board, which voted 40-4 with 14 abstentions in favor of the recommending the Palestinian bid. Apart from the US, only Latvia, Germany and Romania voted against, according to US officials.


While lawmakers have proposed suspending US assistance to the Palestinians if they proceed with a bid for UN membership, current US law prohibits giving funds to the United Nations or any UN agency that grants the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.


In addition, existing US law can bar Washington from funding any UN body that accepts members that do not have the "internationally recognized attributes of statehood." That requirement is generally, but not exclusively, interpreted to mean UN membership.


The State Department said it was studying the implications of Palestinian membership on UNESCO funding but repeated the US position that such a move would complicate the Mideast peace process by raising tensions with Israel, which is fiercely opposed to the step.


'Jeopardize relationship with Palestinians'

The Palestinians are seeking recognition and full membership in the United Nations at the UN Security Council but the US has said it will veto the bid unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Faced with that obstacle, the Palestinians are seeking membership in other UN bodies including UNESCO.


Reps. Kay Granger, a Republican, and Nita Lowey, the chairwoman and top Democrat, respectively, of the House panel that controls US foreign aid, both urged UNESCO not to admit the Palestinians, noting the aid restrictions.


Granger said in a statement that she would advocate cutting the UNESCO contribution if the Palestinians succeed.


"Making a move in another UN agency will not only jeopardize our relationship with the Palestinians, it will jeopardize our contributions to the United Nations," she said. "There are consequences for short-cutting the process, not only for the Palestinians, but for our longstanding relationship with the United Nations."


Lowey said in a statement the UNESCO board's action was "premature and counter-productive" to efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to long-stalled peace talks.


"It is incumbent on every agency affiliated with the United Nations to do its utmost to foster not thwart conditions for peace," she said. "Toward that end, I urge the full membership of UNESCO to reject this destructive gambit and urge the Palestinian Authority to return to direct negotiations with Israel."


Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report




פרסום ראשון: 10.06.11, 00:26
 new comment
This will delete your current comment