The United States announced Monday it is freezing financial contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after the U.N. body voted to admit Palestine as its full member.
The Palestinians' entry into UNESCO is a major symbolic victory in their battle for full U.N. membership.
The general conference decides to admit Palestine as a member of UNESCO, said the resolution that was adopted to loud applause by 107 countries, with 14 voting against and 52 abstaining. Israel, the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany voted against, while Japan and Britain abstained.
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, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said after the decision.
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 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, said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
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 Carney.
Echoing the sentiments at White House, Nuland said Monday'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 U.N. 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, Nuland said.