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US Plans to Rejoin UNESCO

FILE - The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen druing a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017.

The U.N. cultural and scientific agency UNESCO said Monday the United States plans to rejoin the organization in July, nearly five years after leaving.

UNESCO said in a statement the move included a “concrete financing plan” that must be approved by member states.

Before its withdrawal, the United States was a leading financial supporter of UNESCO, providing about 22% of its budget. But it stopped financial contributions in 2011 after Palestinian membership was approved and withdrew altogether in 2018 with the Trump administration accusing UNESCO of anti-Israel bias.

UNESCO said in recent years it has worked to “reduce political tensions and find consensus on the most sensitive topics, such as the Middle East.”

"This is a strong act of confidence, in UNESCO and in multilateralism,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement. “Not only in the centrality of the Organization’s mandate – culture, education, science, information – but also in the way this mandate is being implemented today.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has requested $150 million in next year’s budget for UNESCO dues and back payments.

U.S. officials said ahead of Monday’s announcement that not having a presence at UNESCO was giving an edge to China, including on the issue of setting standards for artificial intelligence.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse