China withdraws its candidate for Khattab's sake in UNESCO vote

13 October, 2017, 21:40 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Leading candidates for Unesco’s new chief include Qian Tang of China former Egyptian government minister Moushira Khattab and Qatar’s former culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari

On Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Egypt Today that Qatar was using its considerable financial muscle to to win votes on the executive board.

The Qatari and French candidates, Hamad bin Abd elaziz alKawari and Audrey Azoulay garnered 18 votes each, Khattab garnered 13 votes, China's candidate Qian Tang 5 votes, and Lebanon's Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe 4 votes.

China's announcement also followed the decision by the U.S. and Israel to pull out of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in protest at its alleged "anti-Israel bias".

Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman tweeted out a congratulatory note to Azoulay and wished her success in the final election against Kawari that will be held tonight. If votes are equal for both, the director general will be chosen through a ballot.

Azoulay's late entry into the leadership race in March annoyed many UNESCO member states who thought that since France hosts the Paris-based agency it shouldn't field a candidate.

Arab countries have long wanted to lead UNESCO.

Jewish groups took issue with al-Kawari's candidacy, citing a preface he wrote to a 2013 Arabic book called "Jerusalem in the Eyes of the Poets" that they claim is anti-Semitic.

The ministry said it backs Azoulay over Qatar's al-Kawari in the final vote scheduled for Friday evening now that the Egyptian candidate is out of contention.

The two went on to say that UNESCO's Executive Board "appears to be squandering the chance to put those ideals and values ahead of base political considerations", and urged members to vote for an alternative candidate.

The UNESCO vote comes as Egypt and three other Arab nations continue a months-long boycott of Qatar over allegations that the government funds extremists and has overly warm ties to Iran.

UNESCO has been accused of bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it infuriated Israel and staunch ally the United States by granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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