The United States will be leaving the United Nations' cultural agency at the end of 2018, the US State Department told UNESCO on Thursday.
A few hours later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his country is also preparing its withdrawal from UNESCO.
Read more: US, Israel announce withdrawal from UN cultural agency UNESCO, cites anti-Israel bias
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, whose successor will be named on Friday, said that she deeply regrets the United States' decision and that the withdrawal of this close partner was a loss for the "family of the United Nations."
German Culture Minister Monika Grütters also reacted to the news in a press statement, saying that the the decision was sending a "completely wrong signal at this point." In a context of growing global crises, she believes that a strong and reliable international cultural policy is essential, she wrote in a tweet:
Olaf Zimmermann, director of the German Cultural Council, described the withdrawal as a "severe blow to international cultural cooperation."
Along with the representatives of major cultural institutions, German-Israeli comedian Shahak Shapira posted a comment on Twitter, pointing out the irony that the US should leave UNESCO to defend Israel while Donald Trump hesitated to condemn neo-Nazis in his own country – in reference to the US president's reaction to the events in Charlottesville. "That's exactly my sense of humor!" he wrote.
The US State Department's statement said that the decision to withdraw from UNESCO was based on a "continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."
UNESCO, which stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is one of the United Nations' 16 bodies. It aims to promote international cooperation in education, culture and communication as a contribution to peace and security. "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed," stated the 1945 constitution of the cultural agency.
bb/bor/eg/ct (AP, dap, AFP)