UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (APP): For the first time in 25 years, the United States on Wednesday abstained on a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Washington’s economic embargo against Cuba, a measure it had always strongly opposed.
The vote on the resolution was 191 in favour, none against, with the
United States and Israel abstaining.
Loud applause rang out in the 193 member Assembly as soon as the result of voting was announced.
The U.S. decision to change its vote follows President Barack Obama’s
restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and his support for lifting the embargo, which the Republican led Congress is against.
The U.S. abstention in the General Assembly vote is certain to anger
Republican opponents of lifting the 55 year old embargo, but it reflects President Barack Obama’s belief shortly before he leaves office that it’s time to move ahead in normalizing U.S. Cuban ties.
The announcement by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power ahead of a vote on the resolution was greeted with applause in the 193 member General Assembly.
Power said the U.S. was abstaining because of President Barack Obama’s new approach to Cuba, but she made clear that the United States “categorically” rejects statements in the resolution suggesting the embargo violated international law.
She also stressed that abstaining “does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government.”
The U.S. has always opposed the annual resolution condemning the
embargo. But an abstention would be in keeping with the administration’s belief that the embargo should be lifted as part of normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and unenforceable. But the 24 year old exercise in which the U.N. overwhelmingly votes to condemn the embargo has given Cuba a global stage to demonstrate America’s isolation on its Cuba policy.
The administration had considered abstaining from the vote last year,
but concluded it could not do so because the resolution did not reflect what it considered to be the spirit of engagement between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. The 2015 vote ended up 191 2 to condemn the commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba; it was the highest number of votes ever for the measure. Only Israel joined the United States in opposing the resolution.
Obama and Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that they were restoring diplomatic ties, which were broken in 1961 after Fidel Castro took power and installed a communist government.
On July 20 last year, diplomatic relations were restored and embassies
of the two countries were reopened, but serious issues remain, especially the U.S. call for human rights on the Caribbean island and claims for expropriated property.