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UNESCO votes in favor of readmitting US, Israel still out

Convening for an extraordinary session, the members of UNESCO voted by a large majority for the United States to rejoin the organization.
A photo shows the UNESCO logo during a speech by its director-general to announce the United States' request to return to the institution, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, on June 12, 2023.

PARIS — UNESCO's 193 member states voted on Friday by a large majority to approve the proposal submitted by the United States earlier this month to rejoin the organization after six years of absence.

The United States left UNESCO at the end of 2017 over what it called anti-Israel resolutions. It had stopped paying its annual contributions in 2011 after Palestine was accepted as a full member.

On June 8, the United States sent a letter to Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay proposing to rejoin the organization as early as July on the basis of a financial plan that includes a commitment to repay its estimated arrears of $619 million.

The envoys of Russia, Iran, Syria and Palestine expressed objections during the debate on Thursday and Friday to the proposed financial arrangement. Iraq, on the other hand, welcomed the return of the United States, expressing hope to work together on sustainable development goals. Mauritania, Algeria and Libya also welcomed the proposal for the United States to return. All told, 132 countries voted in favor and only 10 countries against. Those opposed included Belarus, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Nicaragua, Palestine, Russia and Syria.

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