Latin America & Caribbean

US still isolated at UN General Assembly over Cuba embargo

US envoy Ronald Godard Image copyright AP
Image caption The US envoy to the UN criticised the language of the motion

The United Nations General Assembly has almost unanimously voted to condemn the US embargo on Cuba, in the first such resolution since US-Cuban diplomatic ties were restored earlier this year.

The motion won more support than it has done in the past, with 191 members of the 193-member body voting in favour.

Only the US and Israel opposed the resolution, which is non-binding.

The US had earlier said it may abstain if the resolution's language differed significantly from previous ones.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) has voted in favour of the resolution condemning the US embargo on Cuba for every year since 1992.

Last year, the US and Israel voted against the resolution, while three countries abstained.

In July, the US and Cuba reopened embassies in each other's capitals and restored full diplomatic ties.

Relations had been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke links and imposed a trade embargo on Cuba.

US President Barack Obama last month told UNGA he expected the US Congress to ultimately lift the embargo.

However, the move is opposed by the Republicans, who control Congress.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The US reopened its Havana embassy earlier this year

According to the BBC's Will Grant in Havana, there had been speculation that the US might abstain from the UN vote this year, thereby isolating the US Congress in the eyes of the world - and pressurising them to lift the embargo.

However, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, Ronald Godard, said shortly before the vote that the US would not abstain, as the Cubans had not sufficiently changed the language of the motion.

"We find it unfortunate that despite our demonstrated bilateral progress the Cuban government has chosen to introduce a resolution that is nearly identical to those tabled in years past," he said.

"Nevertheless, the United States will not be bound by a history of mistrust."

Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the assembly that the "lifting of the blockade" would "give some meaning" to the progress achieved recently, and "set the pace towards normalisation".

The resolution welcomes the renewed ties and recognises Mr Obama's "expressed will" to end the embargo.

Our correspondent says the vote is unlikely to derail the process of normalisation between the US and Cuba on its own.

He says Mr Obama still wants to see the embargo lifted, and behind the scenes, the Castro government has appreciated his support in that endeavour.