The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted Monday to admit Palestine into the organization as its newest member, and the United States promptly responded by cutting off funding for the agency.
Acting under a legal requirement to cut U.S. funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes a Palestinian state, the State Department on Monday announced that the United States has stopped funding UNESCO because of the vote.
Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the Obama administration would not make a planned $60 million payment to the agency due in November.
U.S. and Israeli officials said the Palestinian membership bid would roil a U.S.-backed effort to restart a stalled peace process.
The Palestinians maintain that they are prepared to return to talks if certain conditions are met, including a halt to Israel’s expansion of settlements, and that they have every right to pursue membership at the United Nations.
The UNESCO membership bid, which required approval by a two-thirds majority of the agency’s General Conference, easily passed by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions.
France cast a surprise “yes” vote, drawing cheers and applause from the delegates, while the United States, Israel, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany were among those voting “no.”
The United States provides UNESCO with more than $80 million a year, covering about 22 percent of its budget and making any cutoff painful.
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