ASSEMBLY URGES STATES TO REPEAL OR INVALIDATE LAWS WITH EXTRATERRITORIAL EFFECT ON SOVEREIGNTY, FREE TRADE, NAVIGATION OF OTHER STATES19981014 Adopts Resolution on Need to End United States Embargo on Cuba, Voting 157 in Favour, 2 Against (Israel, United States), with 12 Abstentions
The General Assembly this morning urged States that had and continued to apply laws and measures with extraterritorial effects on the sovereignty and the freedom of trade and navigation of other States, such as the United States Helms-Burton Act against Cuba, to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.
The Assembly took that action by adopting a resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba in a vote of 157 in favour, 2 against (Israel, United States), with 12 abstentions (see voting Annex). The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to prepare a report on the implementation of the present resolution and submit it to the Assembly at its next session.
Introducing the draft, the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Roberto Robaina Gonzalez, said, "Blind and deaf the United States of America continues to ignore the demands made by this Assembly during six successive years to put an end to its long, harsh and merciless economic, commercial and financial war against Cuba."
Describing those measures as harassment "by the mightiest Power ever", he said the United Nations had witnessed abusive pressures, blackmail and threats to foil any Cuban motion. The United States blockade had brought about innumerable shortages for 11 million people and had greatly interfered with human development in Cuba. That country, however, had been unsuccessful in toppling the Cuban revolution and inciting the people to rise against its leaders and the political and economic system it had freely chosen.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, said year after year the Cuban Government had manipulated concerns expressed by the Assembly in order to claim support for its repressive and failed policies. Rather than accept the mistaken premise of
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today's resolution, the United States urged nations committed to democracy and human rights to join it in a multilateral effort to promote a peaceful democratic transition in Cuba. In addition to maintaining pressure on the Cuban Government for change, the United States believed that the Cuban people must be reached and that change must come from within.
The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his region's full cooperation with Cuba depended upon improvements in human rights and political freedom. The European Union deplored the detention of a number of people who had expressed their rights to freedom of expression and association in a non-violent manner. He urged Cuban authorities to liberate and fully integrate all prisoners of conscience into society.
The representative of South Africa said the maintenance of the embargo had created the inescapable perception that the United States was bent on imposing its will on Cuba and other sovereign States. It was therefore critical for the international community to act with more vigour to end the embargo which was blatantly in breach of the principles of sovereignty of States, freedom of international trade and navigation, and all other basic norms governing international relations enshrined in the Charter.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Mexico, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Zambia, Ghana, Libya, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Iraq, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Syria, Namibia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Statements were also made in explanation of vote before the vote by the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, China, Australia, Norway, Costa Rica, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Belarus.
The representatives of Canada, Venezuela and Japan also addressed the Assembly in explanation of vote after the vote.
The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the World Solar Programme (1996-2005) and consider granting observer status in the General Assembly to the Association of Caribbean States and to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to begin its consideration of the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
It had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document A/53/320, Add.1 and Add.2) containing responses from governments and United Nations bodies on implementation of Assembly resolution 52/10 by which the Assembly last year called on all States to refrain from the promulgation or application of laws whose effects undermined the sovereign equality of States and interfered in their internal affairs and freedom of international trade and navigation which are also enshrined in many international legal instruments.
The response of the Cuban Government, conveyed to the Assembly through his report, notes that the United States Government not only ignored the call of the international community, but has also reiterated its intention to step up enforcement of its embargo policy, including enforcement of national legislation, including the "Torricelli" and Helms-Burton Acts. The Helms-Burton Act targets companies doing business in Cuba and allows suits to be filed in American courts against any company, including European, Canadian and other allies, involved in business there. The "Torricelli Act", formerly the Cuban Democracy Act, seeks a peaceful transition to democracy and a resumption of economic growth in Cuba through the careful application of sanctions directed at the Government of Cuban President Fidel Castro.
According to the Cuban Government, the impact of the entire embargo policy has so far cost the Cuban economy more than $60 billion. The strict maintenance of embargo measures continues to have a direct impact on the population's supply of staple foods by severely limiting opportunities for importing and negotiating for products related to agricultural production, particularly sugar production, which relies heavily on such products and constitutes a crucial branch of the economy.
A report published in March 1997 by the American Association for World Health recognized that the groups most affected by the embargo were women, children and the elderly, the Government goes on to say. Cuban children with cancer cannot be treated with certain drugs manufactured in the United States which would increase their life expectancy. It is also not possible to purchase special arterial catheters that would help to prevent unnecessary suffering.
In financial operations, the Government notes, banks still maintain discriminatory practices against Cuban banks, such as the imposition of surcharges for all operations and of the "Cuba risk" factor which usually increases the cost of foreign transactions effected by Cuban enterprises by 3 to 5 per cent of their total value. The credits which Cuban enterprises manage to obtain for the marketing of any product also have terms and
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conditions that are more onerous than those established in international practice, with shorter amortization periods and higher interest rates.
The embargo's main effect on the transport of food is to increase shipping costs, since it denies Cuba's access to the United States market, the Cuban Government goes on to say. The restriction whereby ships that enter Cuban ports are not allowed to enter any United States ports for the following six months also discourages many potential competitors from engaging in the transport of Cuban purchases. Those who do engage in transport, charge above market rates.
The Government states that the United States has tried to manipulate the facts by claiming that it does not apply an embargo policy on medicines. However, in fact, the United States Administration had not only prohibited the sale of medicines and medical equipment to Cuba, but had also misinformed and discouraged interested pharmaceutical companies to prevent them from applying for licences, or had delayed its replies to, or processing of, any applications which may have been submitted to it by pharmaceutical companies for this purpose.
The Cuban Government also observes that, in April, the United States adopted a number of amendments to tighten the enforcement of the embargo. United States Senator Jesse Helms has also submitted a new bill designed to neutralize any attempt to introduce flexibility into his Government's Cuban policy. This bill, under the pretext of humanitarian aid, is intended to provide decisive support to the so-called opposition in Cuba to bring about social and political changes.
At the same time, continues the Government, an ever-increasing number of voices have joined the international community's call for the embargo's elimination, and its total lifting had been demanded by practically every State in the world, as well as by numerous multilateral forums, international organizations, regional institutions and groups, governments, personalities from all over the world and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). His Holiness Pope John Paul II expressly condemned this policy during his visit to Cuba in January, describing it as immoral and ethically unacceptable.
The report then outlines the various responses from the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations, including the Office of the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system's operational activities, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The response of UNICEF in the Secretary-General's report states that the situation in the public health system of Cuba is critical due to the lack of essential medicines, including antibiotics such as penicillin and other
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products needed for the sterilization of instruments and equipment. Women's health services, in particular, continue to seriously decline. The routine screening programmes for detection of breast cancer have been discontinued due to shortage of material for X-rays.
The Cuban Government has found it virtually impossible to obtain drugs and supplies needed from multinational pharmaceutical companies for tests and treatment, UNICEF continues. Access to clean water is a serious health concern for more than 2 million children. About 72 per cent of the drinking water has to be treated with chlorine, but the lack of chemical supplies has led to the closing of 46 per cent of installations.
The UNDP reports that between 1997 and 1998, the first initiatives under the UNDP country cooperation framework with Cuba for the period 1997 to 2001 were approved and they are currently under implementation. Among the most important is the assistance to be provided to the economic recovery programme, which will assist the efforts of the Cuban Government in its reform process and institutional changes by strengthening the capacity of human resources of the four main macroeconomic management institutions in the country.
According to the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator, the support provided by the United Nations system cannot compensate for the shortage of capital flows and concessional lending that are required to foster the recovery of the Cuban economy and further develop the country. The United States embargo against that country remains a major issue for its development, requiring continued attention by the international community, the Resident Coordinator reports.
The Assembly has before it a draft resolution, sponsored by Cuba, on the necessity of ending the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba (document A/53/L.6), by which the Assembly would again urge 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. It would also request the Secretary-General, in consultation with the appropriate organs and bodies of the United Nations, to prepare a report on the implementation of the present resolution and to submit it to the Assembly at its fifty-fourth session.
Inroduction of Draft
ROBERTO ROBAINA GONZALEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, introducing the draft on ending the embargo against his country, said the United States, acting blind and deaf, continued to ignore the demands made by the General Assembly during six successive years to put an end to its long, harsh and merciless economic, commercial and financial war against Cuba. Speaking about the harassment by what he termed "the mightiest power ever", he said that the United Nations had witnessed abusive pressures, blackmail and threats to foil any Cuban motion. Even Member States which had abstained or chosen to be absent during the ballot on past Assembly resolutions on the
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embargo against Cuba, had lost credit facilities, seen business and trade transactions cancelled, or sustained political retaliation.
He said that the world, which had opposed the Helms-Burton Act since its inception, had come to recognize that its extraterritorial nature went beyond the intents of affecting third parties. The United States law had no jurisdiction in any foreign country in the world, including Cuba. The Helms- Burton Act had had a brutal impact on Cuba and had undermined the global trading system, negotiations for a future multilateral investment agreement and the international arrangements based on mutual trust among the world's centres of economic power.
To make things worse, he continued, just two weeks before, the United States had stated during the General Assembly general debate that, since 1992, it had authorized over $2 billion in private humanitarian assistance to Cuba. Those numbers failed to add up. In fact, even family remittances had been banned for most of the recent past. The figures of the United States humanitarian assistance for 1992 to 1997 -- which was not Government sanctioned -- amounted to $23.5 million, with 98 per cent of that provided by non-governmental organizations.
The United States had designed a blockade that had brought about innumerable shortages for 11 million human beings and had greatly interfered with human development of Cuba, he said. The United States, however, had been absolutely unsuccessful in its objective of toppling the Cuban revolution and inciting the people to rise against its leaders, and the political and economic system they had freely chosen.
Cuba had suffered from the aggressiveness, arrogance and under the blockade of the country that had never wanted to recognize it as a free and sovereign people and that still looked at it as "a fruit that was supposed to ripen and fall into its claws, subjugated to the United States designs". In conclusion, he asked the Assembly to be fair and to demand that the United States put an end to its cruel blockade.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said owing to history and conviction, Mexico was a country of peace, justice and equality. The principles of the United Nations Charter and of international law formed the fundamental basis of its relations with other States. For that reason, his country had not implemented any extraterritorial legal provisions. It had always rejected the use of coercive measures as a means of pressure in international relations. Mexico reiterated its position that measures, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and their negative consequences were unacceptable under international law and constituted a violation of the principles of the Charter.
During the past six years, the Assembly had urged Member States to refrain from applying extraterritorial laws and measures, he said. That appeal, which embodied reason and ethics, could not remain unheeded. Dialogue
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and understanding had to be established between those two countries, with which Mexico had a friendship. The international community could only make progress towards peace and development through international cooperation with the full respect of the sovereignty of all nations. The embargo had to end. Members of the international community had to join wills to overcome the sequence of intolerance. Only united, with respect for each others differences and with the wealth of its diversity, could the international community realize the hopes of the founders of the United Nations and have access to a fully humane world. Mexico would vote in favour of the draft resolution.
AMIHAMZAH AHMAD (Malaysia) said his delegation was confident that the overwhelming rejection of the unilateral embargo against Cuba would continue. Such actions caused huge material losses and economic damage to the Cuban people. His country firmly believed that there was no justification for the continuation of the unilateral trade measures against Cuba that also impinged on the right of other States to engage in free trade and navigation. The promulgation of the Helms-Burton Act in the United States also contravened the principles and objectives of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It created a bad precedent which would be detrimental to the promotion of international trade.
He said the law's extraterritorial effects violated the territorial integrity of the States affected. In the interests of upholding the principles of international law and the Charter, as well as promoting free trade and equitable economic relations among States, Malaysia, as in previous years, would vote in favour of the draft resolution that was presently being considered by the Assembly.
YURI ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said that continuing commercial and economic embargo against Cuba was a manifestation of an outdated mentality. Russia did not condone attempts to exert pressure on third countries in order to force them to limit their cooperation with Cuba through the implementation of the United States domestic legislation. That law could be justly qualified as discriminatory and contrary to the norms of international law and the principles of free trade. The maintenance of the embargo against Cuba was counter-productive and fraught with harmful humanitarian consequences for the population of that country.
Russia was convinced that the lifting of the embargo and a détente between the United States and Cuba would strengthen stability in the Caribbean region, he continued. It would also assist full integration of Cuba into the world economic system and facilitate its progress in instituting democratic and economic reforms. In spite of the limited nature of the measures to liberalize regulations on humanitarian assistance to Cuba announced by the United States in March 1998, they were a step in the right direction. Russia reaffirmed its intention to continue normal trade and economic relations with Cuba, on the basis of mutual advantage and without any discrimination.
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ARIZAL EFFENDI (Indonesia) said that his delegation continued to be against the imposition of unilateral economic and trade sanctions which were incompatible with the principle of State sovereignty and their legitimate interests. Various international forums including the Assembly should call for the repeal of such laws. In that context, he noted that at the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Durban last month, representatives had called upon the United States to terminate the economic, commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba. They had also urged the United States to begin negotiations, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, to settle its differences with Cuba.
Indonesia, he said, reaffirmed its consistent policy of strict compliance with the principles of equality of States, non-interference in internal State affairs, as well as freedom of trade and international navigation. The application of any laws and regulations having extraterritorial effect or impinging upon the sovereignty of other States, or the lawful interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction, was incompatible with generally accepted principles of international law. His country therefore supported the draft resolution.
NGO QUANG XUAN (Viet Nam) said that, for the past six years, the Assembly had called for the necessity of ending the economic, commerical and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. The resolution adopted last year by the Assembly reflected the deep concern, and rejection by Member States and the international community, of policies that applied extraterritorial laws and unilateral measures of one State against another. Those policies ran counter to the most fundamental principles and purposes of the Charter.
Viet Nam, he said, joined the international community in demanding an immediate and total end to the extraterritorial and confrontational policies of the embargo and blockade imposed upon Cuba for the last 40 years. The dispute between the two countries should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations in a spirit of mutual respect for the independence of sovereign States. Every nation had the right to choose its development path and socio- political system. He urged the Assembly and other bodies of the Organization to take concrete measures to that effect.
PETER LESA KASANDA (Zambia) said it had traditionally voted for the resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. It was going to maintain that vote this year based on its adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. It was crucial to develop and maintain friendly relations among States based on the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. It was the duty of every nation to use the machinery of international cooperation to solve emerging problems between and among nations. Zambia believed that the provisions of the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act had extraterritorial jurisdiction in their
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application. It was wrong for any country to apply and enforce extraterritorial jurisdiction of its national laws. No country had the right to impose its will on other States.
Zambia had not applied any domestic laws on any other country, he said. It was also committed to promoting freedom of navigation and trade. As both a transit and landlocked country, it had reaffirmed the right of access of landlocked countries to and from the sea, and freedom of transit through the territory of transit States by all means of transport, in accordance with international law. Zambia and Cuba maintained warm relations and promoted bilateral cooperation in various fields of socio-economic activity through which both Governments aimed to progressively improve the welfare of their people.
JACOB BOTWE WILMOT (Ghana) said he deeply regretted that the United States had not only failed to comply with the Assembly's successive requests to end the Cuban embargo, but also that it continued to defy the international community by passing amendments to various laws aimed at tightening the blockade. Extraterritorial laws which affected the sovereignty of States and the legitimate interests of persons and entities under their jurisdiction, as well as freedom of trade and navigation, were legislative breaches of international law and violated the principles of the Charter.
In financial terms, Cuba had lost over $60 billion, which was about three times the value of its gross domestic product (GDP). The adverse effects of the embargo were not limited to Cuba alone but affected the interests of companies of third countries by depriving them of profits that could be derived from transactions with Cuba. Even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were being threatened by the embargo. The entire international community, including the United States itself, was denied access to certain benefits available in Cuba, such as the use of a Cuban vaccine judged by WHO to be the best in preventing meningitis type B.
He acknowledged the recent announcement by the United States Government to ease some restrictions on Cuba, namely the resumption of direct non- commercial flights and limited monetary remittances from Cubans to their relatives on the island. Those measures, however, were half-hearted and fell short of the overwhelming demand for the complete lifting of the economic blockade.
ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya) said that confidence was a building block for cooperation between peoples. Those who thought they could play God on earth, ran against the will of God. They started imposing embargoes to achieve their own political interests that were much more important to them than the will of the people. The question was: why were decisions of embargo imposed upon Cuba? Did Cuba represent a threat to the United States? Was it trying to assassinate American leaders? History, he said, provided answers to the contrary. The reality was that Cuba had simply made its own choice, while
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political and economic choices were being imposed on it from outside. The Cuban people were supporting their leadership, and Libya was supporting the people of Cuba.
WIN MRA (Myanmar) said that although the number of Member States calling for an end to the embargo had grown from 59 in favour in 1992 to 143 in 1997 (or 77 per cent of Members), the continued consideration this year "reminds us that the appeal of the international community is still being unheeded". It was highly regrettable that, against the will of the international community, the blockade continued. During the first half of 1998, there were some signs of improvement in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, with the announcement by the American Administration of a few measures aimed at: re-establishing direct flights; allowing the transfer of limited funds by United States residents to their families in Cuba; and reducing restrictions on the shipment of humanitarian donations of medicines and foodstuff to Cuba.
The agreement allowing Cuban commercial airlines to fly over the United States territory was also an encouraging development, he continued. However, the blockade continued to press hard on Cuba's socio-economic situation. The embargo against Cuba was cruel and unfair. It was highly deplorable that innocent people were being victimized for reasons no longer valid and sound. In the interest of upholding the principles of international law and the Charter, and to demonstrate solidarity with the Cuban people during the difficult times brought about by the embargo, the delegation of Myanmar would once again vote in favour of the draft resolution.
MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe) said his country associated itself with the statement to be delivered by the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. For nearly four decades, the Government of Cuba had been appealing to the international community to assist in ending the debilitating embargo imposed on it by the United States. Zimbabwe was dismayed that the international community had no immediate solution to offer Cuba, but instead was here to take action on the same resolution once again. His country had taken the floor to call for the end to the unjustified embargo, which crippled the Cuban economy and caused suffering to its people, especially women, children and the elderly. In the post-cold war era, in which the basic norms of international law were being espoused and openly proclaimed, it was ironic that the international community had to grapple with the most basic breach of those norms. Even more disturbing was the extraterritorial character of that blockade. Since the United Nations had not seen fit to take any action against Cuba, all countries should be able to fully enjoy economic, commercial and financial transactions with Cuba. That one country was becoming evermore isolated in that matter, showed that the international community no longer accommodated such interference.
Today it was Cuba, tomorrow it could be any other country, he said. Zimbabwe, like the Non-Aligned Movement, was guided by the position that the international community should resist all forms of interference and economic
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coercion, including extraterritorial laws against developing countries, which prevented them from exercising their political and economic rights. During the last summit meeting in Durban, the Non-Aligned Movement once more called for the removal of the embargo against Cuba. Zimbabwe hoped that constructive dialogue would replace the existing confrontation characteristic of discussion of this matter. It would, therefore, take its consistent position and vote in favour of the draft resolution.
PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that its members remained opposed to the extraterritorial application of national legislation that sought to impose artificial barriers to trade and denied sovereign equality to States. It, therefore, called for an end to the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.
In keeping with a policy of mutual respect, good neighbourliness and respect for the principles enshrined in the Charter, she said, the CARICOM countries sought to expand and strengthen their relations with Cuba. They worked also to promote Cuba's gradual economic integration into the subregion through functional cooperation and trade. She believed that a constructive process of dialogue would remove tension and conflict in the Caribbean and improve prospects for peaceful development in the region.
KHALED S.H. AL-HITTI (Iraq) said that it was regrettable that the international community was forced to keep looking into the item under discussion, despite the General Assembly decisions regarding the embargo against Cuba. The vote by an overwhelming majority in favour of those resolutions indicated that the international community had a strong feeling against unilateral measures violating the principles of equality and sovereignty of States. Coercive measures still applied by the United States against Cuba greatly endangered the human rights and well-being of the Cuban people and inflicted considerable damage on Cuba.
Currently the United States was imposing, or threatening to impose, sanctions against 75 States, without caring a bit about the disastrous effect on civilian populations, he said. The United States had failed in the area of human rights. He called upon the Government of the United States to desist from harmful policies and to ensure the sovereignty as established by international law. He said he hoped that there would be no need to return to the issue under discussion in the future.
KHIPHUSIZI J. JELE (South Africa) said the maintenance of the embargo had created the inescapable perception that the United States was bent on imposing its will on Cuba and other sovereign States. It was, therefore, critical for the international community to act with more vigour to end the blockade which was blatantly violating the principles of sovereignty of States, freedom of international trade and navigation, and all other basic norms governing international relations enshrined in the Charter. His
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delegation believed that it was essential for both parties to undertake measures aimed at settling their differences by dialogue and negotiation on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
He said it was also important to note that a growing number of public bodies and intergovernmental forums had expressed disapproval of those punitive actions. That opposition had been given added weight and significance by the decisions of the Non-Aligned Movement and the involvement of many public figures in the United States itself, thus providing convincing proof of the urgent need for that country to end its economic and commercial stranglehold on Cuba. The Assembly had the responsibility to ensure that the unjust embargo was lifted so that the Cuban people could live under conditions which were conducive to their development. South Africa therefore supported the draft resolution.
ABDELRAHIM KHALIL (Sudan) said he supported the resolution before the Assembly. Recently, the United States had tried to exert similar coercive efforts to impede his own country's quest for economic development. Such actions went against the basic rules of law that governed international relations. The various reports of the Secretary-General, including the present one, had highlighted the damaging effects of the United States-imposed embargo on Cuba -- especially in the area of health. Unilateralism, coupled with coercive measures, hampered international trade, put hurdles in the way of technology acquisition, promoted aggression against people and defeated the spirit of the Charter. Needed now was the spirit of tolerance and peace .
He said the various resolutions by the United Nations called for the countries not to promulgate any extraterritorial measures and laws against sovereign States. The Sudan would vote in favour of the draft before the Assembly today. He stressed that all problems should be settled on the basis of equality among States and mutual respect.
DAUDI NGELAUTWA MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the international appeals and effort employed on behalf of the Cuban people were necessary, justified and urgent. His country was increasingly concerned that in spite of six Assembly resolutions calling for its end, the embargo against Cuba remained in place. That continued state of affairs was disappointing for two reasons. First, because it suggested that the series of resolutions the Assembly adopted were inconsequential and the continued embargo, therefore, represented a challenge both to the authority of the Assembly and to the Charter. Secondly, it was regrettable that the status quo contributed to human suffering in Cuba. Just recently, the world witnessed the manner in which the embargo hindered international humanitarian cooperation in the form of humanitarian responses to the tragedy brought about by hurricane Georges to the Cuban people.
The Helms-Burton Act was devoid of any legality under international law, he said. Its illegitimacy was rooted, not only in its extraterritorial
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application, but also due to the fact that it sought to hinder international trade and cooperation. His country continued to stand opposed to that piece of legislation. No country should be encouraged or allowed to pursue unilateralism at the expense of fruitful international cooperation. In the era of globalization, such actions were counter-productive.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said Cuba had for four decades been the victim of economic and financial damage due to the embargo. It was time to remedy that situation. Cuba had repeatedly called for the end to the blockade through dialogue and Syria supported that idea.
International support for the Assembly resolution on Cuba had increased over the past seven years and showed the need to lift the embargo imposed by the United States, he said. It was also evidence of the need to respect the political and economic system chosen by each State individually, in light of its own legitimate interests. Any decision that damaged the sovereignty of other States was contrary to the Charter. Syria supported the statement made by the Non-Aligned Movement in Durban, which required the United States to terminate the blockade. Measures imposed on Cuba had done damage to the country and its people, and widened the gap between Cuba and the United States. The international community had repeatedly rejected the Helms-Burton Act, an extraterritorial act which disregarded the need to respect the sovereignty of States; violated the Charter and international law; and impeded international trade and navigation. Syria would support the draft resolution.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said he wished to join the call of the Assembly for nations to refrain from promulgation or application of laws and regulations having extraterritorial effects on the sovereignty of other States. The Government of Namibia was greatly concerned over the non-compliance with the relevant Assembly resolutions which sought to end the embargo imposed by the United States against the people of Cuba. The Helms- Burton Act was a violation of the sovereignty of States, and a breach of the principles of the Charter and of international law. It was also a restriction of the freedom of trade and navigation, and the international trading system. He called for the lifting of the embargo and would vote for the draft under discussion.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said the Assembly had been considering the item in question for seven years. It was regrettable that the problem had not been resolved by the two parties in question -- namely Cuba and the United States. His country felt that it was in the interest of peace and development in that region and the Cuban people for the two parties to take steps towards resolving their differences as soon as possible.
He said his country had always opposed the application of unilateral and coercive economic measures. The 30-year old embargo had not only hampered the economic and social development of Cuba, but had also hampered trade between
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that country and other States. In light of the principle of non-interference, it was time for the blockade to be lifted and for the two countries to improve their relations. His country would therefore support the draft introduced by Cuba.
Raising a procedural point, RI NAM SU (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that the report of the Secretary-General carried replies received from governments as of August 1998. His Government had provided its reply in March, but it was not included in the report. He asked for the report to be reissued, with the reply of his Government included.
HANS PETER MANZ (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union acknowledged that the Cuban Government had taken steps towards a better economic integration, and stressed the need for a progressive and irreversible opening of its economy. The European Union wished to be Cuba's partner in such a process, but expressed concern about the political and human rights situation in the country. Although the release of Cuban political prisoners in response to urging from Pope John Paul II had been positive, Cuba needed to move towards greater religious and civic freedom. The European Union's full cooperation with Cuba depended upon improvements in human rights and political freedom. He said his delegation deplored the detention of a considerable number of people, including the four leading members of the Internal Dissidence Working Group, who had expressed, in a non-violent manner, their rights to freedom of expression and association. He urged Cuban authorities to liberate and fully integrate into society all prisoners of conscience.
That having been said, he reiterated the European Union's common position concerning the use of coercive measures to increase the economic hardship of the Cuban people. The European Union believed that the United States trade policy towards Cuba was principally a matter between those two Governments. However, the European Union was clearly opposed to the extraterritorial extension of the United States embargo, such as that contained in the so-called Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. That opposition was based both on law and on principle against the imposition of secondary boycotts and extraterritorial legislation.
In November 1996, the Council of Ministers of the European Union had adopted measures to protect the interests of persons residing in the European Union against the extraterritorial effects of the Helms-Burton Act. On 18 May 1998, at the European Union/United States summit in London, a package was agreed to on United States sanctions law, including a commitment by the United States Administration to resist future extraterritorial legislation of that kind. That represented an important step towards resolving European Union differences with the United States on the matter. The European Union's commitment to implementing the package must be matched by the United States. For all of the above-stated reasons, the member States of the European Union
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unanimously supported the Assembly's current resolution on the need to end the Cuban embargo.
Statements Before Vote
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina), speaking before the vote, said that lifting the embargo was the best instrument to promote freedom of trade and dialogue. Dialogue was the most important way to promote change in the area of representativeness in Cuba. Argentina would vote in favour of the draft.
HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil) said he would vote in favour of the draft resolution. The settlement of disputes should be undertaken through peaceful means. Forceful means should be resorted to only when other means were exhausted. Embargoes and sanctions contradicted the principles of international law.
YU QINGTAI (China) said that it was regrettable that the United States Government had not responded positively to appeals from the international community to discontinue implementation of laws contrary to principles contained in the Charter and the basic norms of international relations. The sanctions and embargoes imposed by the United States over the years were clearly violating the human rights of the people of another country.
Such actions hampered the economic and social development of the Cuban people, with particularly harmful effects on women and children, he said. Furthermore, the unilateral measures by the United States had obstructed normal economic and trade relations between Cuba and many other countries, causing damage to their legitimate rights and interests. That situation should not be permitted to continue. History had shown that differences among nations could be settled effectively only through dialogue and negotiations, on the basis of equality and respect for each other's independent choices. He called on the United States to take constructive actions in line with the prevailing international trend.
JOHN H. CRIGHTON (Australia) said that while Australia shared the concern of some countries over the situation in Cuba, it did not think that the sanctions were the answer. Promulgation of laws with extraterritorial effects influenced freedom of trade and navigation and contradicted the principles of international law. His country had concerns about the Helms- Burton law of 1996 and would vote in favour of the resolution under discussion today.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that his country deplored the violation of human rights in Cuba, but did not consider the embargo an appropriate response to the situation in that country. Constructive dialogue and peaceful means should be used in this case. There was a clear distinction between unilateral measures and sanctions imposed by international bodies. No country should
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impose its own legislation on another country. Norway would vote in favour of the resolution without condoning the violations of human rights in Cuba.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said he would vote in favour of the draft resolution which called for the lifting of the embargo. His country advocated that position based on its support for the sovereignty of States and peoples. Costa Rica rejected interference in the internal affairs of States. As affirmed last year, the international community could agree or disagree with the Cubans, but it was not up to third countries to use measures to alter the Cuban State. He was not pleased with the situation of human rights in Cuba. Also actions such as the Helms-Burton Act were not justified in the name of solving the problems of Cuba. Costa Rica regretted that international trade was limited due to the blockade.
RI JANG GON (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said the continued blockade violated the principle of sovereignty of States and non-interference as enshrined in the Charter and in international law. Every country had the right to choose its own political system. No country had the right to impose its will on others. The blockade should end and his country would vote in favour of the resolution.
ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU (Belarus) said he was always in favour of strict compliance with the principles of the Charter. Thus, Belarus expressed its solidarity with the Assembly's call for refraining from the use of actions limiting trade. Belarus urged the peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiations and the development of links between Cuba and all countries, including the United States. He supported the appeal of the international community for States not to adopt laws aimed against other States. Belarus would support the draft resolution.
PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said that his country's concern with Cuba resulted from systematic denial by Cuba of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms for its people. His country was proud to promote and support the democracy around the world; it was the dictators and repressors of human rights who should be defensive and ashamed. His country believed that economic sanctions were an important foreign policy tool to be used in certain compelling cases. In the case of Cuba, sanctions were but one element of a broad policy aimed at promoting a peaceful transition to democracy in that country. Important issues were at stake for the United States in Cuba, which lay only 90 miles from its shores.
Year after year, the Cuban Government had manipulated the concerns expressed in the General Assembly to claim support for its repressive and failed policies, he said. The record, however, was clear: dozens of dissidents and human rights advocates had been detained and arrested over the past year. Rather than accept the mistaken premise of today's resolution, the United States urged nations committed to democracy and human rights to join the United States in a multilateral effort to promote a peaceful democratic
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transition in Cuba. In addition to maintaining pressure on the Cuban Government for change, the United States believed it particularly important to reach out to the Cuban people. The change in Cuba must come from within. Dozens of non-governmental groups in the United States were engaged in projects with independent Cuban groups, and the United States had licensed over $2 billion in private humanitarian assistance for the people of Cuba.
Action on Draft
The Assembly then adopted, by a vote of 157 in favour, 2 against (United States, Israel), with 12 abstentions, the draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. (See Annex for details of vote.)
Explanation of Vote After the Vote
MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said he voted in favour of the draft resolution because it was against the attempts of the United States to apply unilateral measures, such as the Helms-Burton Act. The blockade could not, however, bear the sole responsibility for the situation in Cuba, he said, raising concern about Cuba's responsibility for the situation in that country.
IGNACIO ARCAYA-SMITH (Venezuela) said that while supporting peace and peaceful coexistence among nations, his country once again rejected the application of unilateral coercive measures under the jurisdiction of third parties. That position had been maintained since 1992 by the Assembly and reiterated in various forums, including the Rio Group. At the twelfth summit meeting of the Rio Group, heads of State strongly rejected unilateral application of domestic law which had a negative impact on cooperation and trade among countries. At a time when the international community was making progress in establishing new formulas for cooperation, it was inconsistent that disputes should be resolved through unilateral measures. Venezuela voted in favour of the resolution based on respect for international law, not to show support for any particular regime.
YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said Japan voted in favour of the resolution. He said he wanted to take the opportunity to refer to the human rights situation in Cuba. Japan welcomed the release of prisoners, including political prisoners, by Cuba in March, in response to the requests made by the international community and notably the Vatican. But, regarding restrictions on political activities and on the freedom of assembly, association and expression, there had been no fundamental progress towards democratization nor had there been progress in the human rights situation or relating to respect for individual rights. Japan remained concerned at the current situation, and hoped it would improve. While Japan supported the draft, he said it might be worth considering whether the Assembly was the most suitable forum in which to address the issue.
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Vote on Ending Embargo against Cuba
The draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba (document A/53/L.6) was adopted by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 2 against, with 12 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Israel, United States.
Abstain: El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Republic of Korea, Senegal, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uzbekistan.
Absent: Albania, Federated States of Micronesia, Kuwait, Marshall Islands, Oman, Palau.
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