UNESCO Director Visits Israel and Seeks to Improve Relations
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UNESCO Director Visits Israel and Seeks to Improve Relations

UNESCO, the cultural and scientific arm of the United Nations, has dropped its traditional bias against Israel and wants to improve relations with Jerusalem, the agency’s director general said on an official visit here.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, the Spanish head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, told reporters the organization has moved past “its politicization and mismanagement.”

He said Israel “benefits from its participation” in UNESCO, and UNESCO “benefits from experts” from Israel.

“I would like to further improve this cooperation,” said Mayor, who was scheduled to leave Israel on Thursday.

The UNESCO director praised Israel for remaining with the agency during “difficult times” and for helping to reform the agency from within.

For years UNESCO passed anti-Israel resolutions. The agency also protested archaeological digs in eastern Jerusalem because of Israel’s annexation of the formerly Arab half of the city.

Until now, any cooperation that has occurred between Israel and UNESCO has been given a low profile.

But with Mayor’s visit, it appears cooperation will increase. UNESCO is now interested in offering scholarships to promote visits here by Arab scientists wishing to study Israel’s engineering, environmental and medical research, Mayor said.

He said UNESCO also would continue to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace through workshops and conferences.