UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday condemned a U.S. trade embargo on Cuba for the 24th year in a resolution that Washington voted against despite warming ties and a push by President Barack Obama to remove the economic sanctions.
The resolution was adopted by the 193-member General Assembly with 191 votes in favor. Israel joined its ally the United States in voting against. While such resolutions are non-binding, they can carry political weight.
In July, the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations after a 54-year break. Obama has taken steps to ease trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, but only the U.S. Congress can lift the full embargo.
Obama told the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly last month he was “confident our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.”
The resolution adopted on Tuesday added language welcoming renewed ties and recognizing Obama’s desire to end the embargo, but that failed to sway the Americans.
“The text falls short of reflecting the significant steps that have been taken and the spirit of engagement President Obama has championed,” Ronald Godard, U.S. senior adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs, said before the vote.
“If Cuba thinks this exercise will help move things forward in the direction both governments have indicated they wish, it is mistaken,” Godard told the General Assembly.
Cuban President Raul Castro’s government, while working to improve ties, has made clear full normalization will require the complete lifting of the embargo and the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told reporters in New York he was “disappointed” the United States voted no.
Given that Obama’s policy change reversed the course of 10 previous U.S. presidents, Rodriguez said “one would have expected” a yes vote from Washington.
“This didn’t happen today and it’s disappointing,” Rodriguez said.
Earlier he told the General Assembly the embargo is “a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans.” Cuba estimates the economic damage at $121 billion over the life of the embargo.
“As long as the blockade persists we will continue to present this draft resolution,” he said.
While the resolution has always passed with a lopsided vote, this year’s result of 191 to 2 was the strongest ever in Cuba’s favor with near unanimity and no abstentions.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additonal reporting by Daniel Trotta in Havana; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman