cloudy
Tuesday November 21st, 2017 1:28AM

AP Interview: UNESCO chief says US "empty chair" can't last

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PARIS (AP) — New UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay has rebuked the U.S. for its decision to withdraw from the U.N. cultural body for alleged anti-Israel bias and says America is "affected by everything" the agency does.

Following her confirmation Friday as director general, Azoulay acknowledged difficulties in the Paris-based organization that has been rocked by U.S. funding cuts since 2011 over the admission of Palestine as a member.

But the 45-year-old former French culture minister told The Associated Press that the Trump administration's announcement to pull out of the agency is not tenable in the long term.

"I obviously regret their departure ... but this 'empty chair politics' is not sustainable because the United States is also affected by everything that UNESCO does," she said, speaking at the agency's Paris headquarters.

The U.N.'s educational, scientific and cultural agency is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions, but it also works to fight violent extremism, improve education for girls, promote Holocaust understanding, defend media freedoms and encourage science on climate change.

Azoulay, who will be officially sworn in Monday, said the American withdrawal "did not come as a surprise" given the "critical position" the U.S. has taken recently — a reference to President Donald Trump's "America First" policies.

Azoulay said she will maintain a dialogue with the U.S., which plans to remain as a "permanent observer."

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel also plans to withdraw from the agency. Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. Israel told The AP it planned to pull out of the agency this month.

There have been hopes that Azoulay, the organization's first Jewish chief who is also of Moroccan descent, would be able to quell the political tempest inside the organization that was created following World War II to promote peace.

"I have multiple identities. An identity built on multiplicity, built on diversity. And I have experienced in my life how much of an opportunity that is — how much in today's modern world this complexity and diversity is an asset," she said.

She warned against writing UNESCO off.

"It's prejudicial to UNESCO to reduce its scope of work to a few hotbeds of tensions," she said. "We are always stronger with multilateral dialogue. It's as true for Israel as it is for other countries."

UNESCO's Executive Board nominated Azoulay their next chief after an unusually heated election overshadowed by Mideast tensions. The choice was confirmed Friday by the General Conference who voted 131-19 to appoint her.

She will be UNESCO's second female chief after outgoing leader Irina Bokova and its second French chief. While she is Jewish, her father is Moroccan and was an influential adviser to Moroccan kings, so she also has a connection to the Arab world.

__

Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K

__

Masha Macpherson and Oleg Cetinic contributed in Paris to this report

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News, AP Entertainment
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
AP Interview: UNESCO chief says US "empty chair" can't last
Troubled UNESCO confirms former French Cultural Minister Azoulay as new chief
11:02AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Climate activists stage protest at German coal-fired plant
Environmental activists have staged a protest at a German coal-fired power plant, as Italy becomes the latest country to announce a deadline for ending its use of one of the most heavily polluting fossil fuels
10:59AM ( 12 minutes ago )
NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week
NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week
10:47AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Accord on revised Pacific Rim trade pact stalled
Agreement on a Pacific Rim trade pact stalls as Canada balks at proposed deal
9:57AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Hezbollah says war with Israel unlikely
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says the country's prime minister is currently detained in Saudi Arabia and that his "forced" resignation is unconstitutional because it was done "under duress."
9:49AM ( 1 hour ago )
Turkish police detain at least 100 Islamic State suspects
Turkish official news agency says that police have detained at least 100 people suspected of links to the Islamic State group
9:43AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
Climate activists stage protest at German coal-fired plant
Environmental activists have staged a protest at a German coal-fired power plant, as Italy becomes the latest country to announce a deadline for ending its use of one of the most heavily polluting fossil fuels
10:59AM ( 12 minutes ago )
NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week
NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week
10:47AM ( 25 minutes ago )
US woman accused in Zimbabwe of subversion is freed on bail
US woman accused in Zimbabwe of subversion over Mugabe 'sick man' tweet is freed on bail
10:37AM ( 34 minutes ago )
EU adds haste with call for UK Brexit progress in 2 weeks
The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator said Friday that no major decisions were taken on Brexit during the latest round of talks this week
10:36AM ( 35 minutes ago )
Health care and technology losses take US stocks lower
US stocks are down for a second day as health care and technology companies post losses
10:28AM ( 44 minutes ago )