US abstains for first time in UN vote on Cuba

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in which India along with 190 other countries voted in favour while the US cast an abstention along with Israel.

US abstains for first time in UN vote on Cuba

United Nations: Marking a significant shift in stance, the US for the first time abstained from voting on a UN resolution that underlined the need to end the trade embargo imposed by America against Cuba, a move welcomed by India and other nations.

In a near unanimous action, the General Assembly yesterday adopted the resolution in which India along with 190 other countries voted in favour while the US which had been opposing it for 25 years cast an abstention along with Israel.

"For more than 50 years, the United States had a policy aimed at isolating the government of Cuba.

"For roughly half of those years, UN Member States have voted overwhelmingly for a General Assembly resolution that condemns the US embargo and calls for it to be ended. The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today the US will abstain," said US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power at the meeting of the Cuba embargo.

She said the US policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working and instead of isolating Cuba "our policy isolated the United States. Including right here at the United Nations".

Power, however, added that abstaining on the resolution did not mean the US agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government.

"We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people ? including arbitrarily detaining those who criticize the government; threatening, intimidating, and, at times, physically assaulting citizens who take part in peaceful marches and meetings; and severely restricting the access that people on the island have to outside information," she said.

Of the Assembly's 193 Members, 191 voted in favour of the text which welcomed the progress in the relations between the two countries as well as the visit of US President Barack Obama to Cuba in March this year.

India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Tanmaya Lal said there was little doubt that the continued existence of the embargo, in contravention of world opinion as expressed by the Assembly, undermined multilateralism and the credibility of the United Nations itself.

He said successive reports of the Secretary-General had established that the US' embargo against Cuba, particularly through its extraterritorial effects, had adversely impacted the Cuban people.

Lal added India acknowledged the notable socioeconomic and development achievements of the Cuban people, particularly their high Human Development Index ranking and Cuba's achievement of the several Millennium Development Goals.

Yet the embargo would severely impact Cuba's ability to

implement the 2030?Agenda, Lal said, adding that the international community must re-double its efforts to promote an environment free of sanctions and embargoes.

Noting of the steps taken by the US Administration towards modifying some aspects of the implementation of the embargo, the General Assembly deemed such steps "positive, [but] still limited in scope."

The Assembly further reiterated its call to all UN Member States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations under the UN Charter and international law, which reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.

The Assembly "once again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible," the resolution added.

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