United States said on Monday it had stopped funding UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the United States had no choice but to halt funding because of US laws passed in the 1990s, saying Washington would not make a planned 60 million dollars transfer that was due in November.
The United States ... remains strongly committed to robust, multilateral engagement across the UN 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.
Nuland also said the vote Monday by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member was regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The United States provides 22% of the funding of the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
That agency decided on Monday to give the Palestinians full membership, a vote that will boost their bid at the United Nations for recognition as a state.
UNESCO is the first UN agency the Palestinians have joined as a full member since President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on September 23.
The US and its ally Israel oppose the Palestinian diplomatic foray in the U.N. system, describing it as an attempt to bypass the two-decade old peace process. Washington says only a resumption of peace talks ending in a treaty with Israel can bring about the Palestinian goal of statehood.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the U.N., said the UNESCO move was no substitute for negotiations, but it is deeply damaging to UNESCO.
The laws passed in the 1990s prohibit US funding to any U.N. organization that grants full membership to any group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.
The language was intended to pre-emotively block normalization of Palestinian relations and activities in the international community, said Lara Friedman, policy director at Americans for Peace Now, an American Jewish group.