Phạm Sanh Châu, Vietnamese candidate for the director-general position of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), made a decision to withdraw his name prior to the third round of voting on Wednesday.
"This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects USA concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at Unesco", the department said, adding that the United States would seek to "remain engaged ... as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise".
"At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues", Bokova said in the statement.
UNESCO is a body of the United Nations that promotes global cooperation in education, science, culture and communication, though it is perhaps best known for its designation of "world heritage" sites - locations with particular cultural significance. And in 2015, Unesco adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship".
Ms. Bokova, in a telephone interview, said she "thought the decision was coming but why now, I don't know, in the midst of elections" for a new director to replace her.
The US withdrawal was also motivated by a desire to stop accruing arrears to the agency, Foreign Policy magazine reported.
Nauert said the state department had notified Bokova of their decision earlier on Thursday.
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Israel says it will join the U.S. in pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation after USA officials cited "anti-Israel bias".
UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot.
Washington has also protested against UNESCO's decision to grant full membership to Palestine, deciding to suspend regular payments to the organization in 2011.
US officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote "another delusional decision" by UNESCO, which promotes education, cultural development and free media initiatives around the world.
The US decision, first reported by Foreign Policy magazine, comes as European powers face another setback in their efforts to lobby Trump to respect Washington's worldwide commitments.
Mr Netanyahu condemned the agency this year for declaring the old city of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.
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