Despite Resumption of Relations between United States, Cuba, General Assembly Adopts, Almost Unanimously, Resolution Calling for Blockade to Be Lifted

GA/11713
27 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 40th & 41st Meetings (AM & PM)

Despite Resumption of Relations between United States, Cuba, General Assembly Adopts, Almost Unanimously, Resolution Calling for Blockade to Be Lifted

In a near-unanimous recorded vote, the General Assembly today adopted, for the twenty-fourth time, a resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba, despite resumptions of relations between the two countries.

With all 193 Member States present for the meeting, 191 countries demonstrated a concerted and international stand with Cuba and voted in favour of the resolution.  As they had in past years, the United States and Israel voted against.

Included in the terms of the text, the General Assembly reiterated its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, such as “the Helms-Burton Act”, in conformity with their obligations under the United Nations Charter and international law, which, inter alia, reaffirm the freedom of trade and navigation.

In addition, the text once again urged States that had and continued to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime.

Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, told the Assembly that in December 2014, United States President Barack Obama had recognized that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against Cuba was obsolete and had not met the originally envisaged goals.  Still, he said, the United States Administration’s measures that entered into force in January 2015, although positive, only modified in a very limited way some elements related to the implementation of the blockade.

The human damages the blockade had caused were inestimable, he said, singling out the issue of imports of medicines and medical equipment.  Those materials, which his country needed, were subject to a comprehensive system of previously established sanctions and laws.  Cuba would continue to present the draft resolution for as long as the blockade persisted, he vowed.

The representative of the United States, however, underscored that since December 2014 his Government had taken historic measures in adjusting its regulations related to Cuba.  While emphasizing that the embargo would be lifted as soon as possible, he pointed out that the draft resolution did not reflect any of those many positive steps taken, including both countries establishing embassies in the respective countries and the visit of United States Secretary of State to Cuba, the first since 1945.  It was regrettable, in light of such progress, that Cuba had once again pushed for the resolution to be voted on in the General Assembly.

Still, numerous delegations joined the call to lift the embargo, and commended the many efforts of Cuba to support other countries while overcoming that blockade’s resulting hardships. 

The representative of the Solomon Islands, also speaking for Nauru, thanked the Government and people of Cuba for medical scholarships provided to Pacific small island developing States.  Over the last three years more than 60 doctors from his region had been trained in Cuba and had returned to their own countries to work as medical personnel. 

Cuba’s involvement and dedication to medical aid around the world was also noted by the delegate of South Africa who, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that despite Cuba’s difficulties resulting from the embargo, that country had consistently supplied medical assistance at the international level.  More than 50,000 health workers trained in Cuba were providing services in 66 countries, including Sierra Leone on the front lines of the Ebola crisis.

Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that the sanctions, imposed unilaterally by the United States fifty years prior, continued to cause great economic hardship for Cuba, especially its poor and vulnerable.  An immediate end to the embargo was imperative for the promotion of better standards of living for that country’s people, particularly in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development theme, “leaving no one behind”.

The representative of Luxembourg speaking for the European Union, observing that United States trade policy towards Cuba was fundamentally a bilateral issue, stressed that the effects and side effects of extraterritorial legislation and of unilateral measures were also negatively affecting the Union’s economic interests.  Its Common Commercial Policy had firmly and continuously opposed such measures.  She also underscored the European Union and the United States agreement in 1998 aimed to alleviate problems with extraterritorial legislation.  It was urgent that the United States fully respect and implement that agreement.

Nonetheless, nearly all delegations praised the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  China’s representative expressed hope that not only the countries would maintain dialogue and consultation, but that the United States would completely remove the policy of blockade against Cuba and allow normal relations to develop, something that would be in the interest of both countries and conducive to peace in the entire region. 

Echoing that stance, the representative of the Russian Federation, while noting that the sanctions were a vestige of the cold war that would hinder Cuba from achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also pointed out that public opinion in the United States favoured an end to the embargo.  That support and the lifting of the blockade would, in turn, lead to economic and social development in the region.

Also speaking at today’s meeting were representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Non-aligned Movement), Ecuador (on behalf of the Community of Latin and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Kuwait (on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)), Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Paraguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Malaysia (on behalf the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Mexico, Colombia, Viet Nam, Egypt, Venezuela, India, Algeria, Brazil, Bolivia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Sudan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Belarus, Syria, El Salvador, Tonga, Zambia, Israel, Indonesia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Myanmar, Suriname and Uruguay.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m on Wednesday, 28 October, to elect seven members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination.  The Assembly would also elect eighteen members of the Human Rights Council.

Background

The General Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (document A/70/120), as well as an eponymous draft resolution which calls upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures of the kind referred to in the present resolution.  The text would also, among other things, urge States that had and continued to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime.

Statements

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said that for 23 consecutive years the 120 member States belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement had expressed “overwhelming solidarity with the Government and people of Cuba” by voting in favour of the resolution calling for lifting the United States embargo against that country.  Reiterating his strong opposition to coercive measures with extraterritorial effect, he said that the Government of the United States had been repeatedly called to end its unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.  The embargo was contrary to international law, the United Nations Charter, the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States and also violated Cuba’s right to interact with the international community.

The direct and indirect damage caused by the embargo was enormous, he continued.  It affected all crucial sectors of the economy and impeded Cuba’s efforts to achieve sustainable development.  At current prices, the blockade had caused damages, over the years, amounting to $121 billion.  While noting the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States as a positive step, he said that, under the current administration, the blockade had been tightened and its territorial implementation intensified.  Further, the United States Congress had not approved any bills seeking to eliminate any blockade regulations.  Recalling that in 2014, 188 Member States had voted in favour of the resolution, a number signifying near unanimity, he urged the United States to yield to the will of the international community.

DIEGO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking for the Community of Latin and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcomed the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, which he called “the beginning of a new chapter in the history of peace and coexistence among the American nations”.  While recognizing United States President Barack Obama’s expressed will to end the blockade, he pointed out that the blockade was still a reality for the Cuban people and a major obstacle to development.  Furthermore, it was contrary to the Charter and international law.  While the United States Congress had the authority to end the blockade, executive measures taken by President Obama since the beginning of 2015 demonstrated his extensive capabilities towards changing the embargo policy.  The United States Government should comply with Assembly resolutions, he stressed.

Rejecting the escalation of the blockade’s extraterritorial dimension and the “growing persecution of Cuba’s international financial transactions”, he expressed support for the resolution to end the embargo, highlighting Cuba’s efforts to include language adapted to current circumstances.  Speaking in his national capacity, he said he regretted that the United States was breaking with its policy “because it had not worked”, rather than because it was against inter-American law, international law, the rights of the Cuban people and human rights.  It was deplorable that in the twenty-first century the founding principles of the Charter and international law continued to be undermined, hindering the sustainable development of other peoples and States, he stated, voicing his country’s support for the adoption of the resolution.

JEREMIAH N.K. MAMABOLO (South Africa), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that President Obama had put forward “an act of historical justice” when he notified the United States Congress of his decision to remove Cuba from the so-called list of State Sponsors of Terrorism — a list on which Cuba should have never been included in the first place.  However, that had not meant an easing of all the blockade’s prohibitions and restrictions.  Furthermore, it was disheartening that the United States Congress had not approved any of the bills which sought to eliminate some of the remaining blockade regulations, thus leaving the implementation of the blockade against Cuba unchanged.  The most “notorious example” of that was the $1.710 billion fine on the German bank, Commerzbank and the $7,658,300 fine on the United States company, PayPal.  As well, despite some of the positive overtures demonstrated by President Obama’s administration, the blockade had been further tightened and its territorial implementation and grip intensified through the imposition of 42 fines on United States and foreign entities at a value of $13,279,148,196. 

The United States should initiate measures to immediately repeal those “inhumane” actions, he emphasized.  The severe economic and financial restrictions that stifled Cuba’s economic and social development further exacerbated the Cuban people’s hardships and suffering.  That must come to an end.  The constraints placed on Cuba’s rights to carry out financial transactions abroad must be denounced.  All countries deserved to be allowed to do business in an open and just environment.  Despite Cuba’s difficulties resulting from the embargo, that country had consistently supplied medical assistance at the international level.  More than 50,000 health workers trained in Cuba were providing services in 66 countries, including Sierra Leone on the front lines of the Ebola crisis.  The embargo and blockade had caused damages throughout the years estimated at more than $121.192 billion.  Recalling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he urged the international community to not leave the Cuban people behind.

VANDI CHIDI MINAH (Sierra Leone), speaking for the African Group, welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  However, he reaffirmed the Group’s condemnation of the persisting economic and financial embargo against Cuba. 

The sanctions, imposed unilaterally by the United States fifty years prior, continued to cause great economic hardship for Cuba, especially its poor and vulnerable, he said.  An immediate end to the embargo was imperative for the promotion of better standards of living for that country’s people, particularly in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development theme, “leaving no one behind”.

MANSOUR A.S. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Governments of the United States and Cuba.  There nevertheless remained the issue of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  That unilateral blockade affected not only Cuba, but extended to third countries, entities and companies who faced imposed fines for having commercial activity with Cuba.

Such unilateral actions ran counter to the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter, he said.  Recalling that the draft resolution before the General Assembly had over the past few years garnered “overwhelming” support, he added that continuing to disregard the international community’s collective will weakened multilateralism and undermined the United Nations credibility.  Expressing support for the text, he called upon other Member States to vote in favour of it.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated his unequivocal opposition to the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.  The punitive embargo was of particular concern to CARICOM due to its shared history, culture and brotherhood with Cuba.  Caribbean ties with Cuba had been cemented by years of cooperation in trade, health care, infrastructure and human resource development.  The region’s future development relied upon collective advancement and progress.

He welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, recognizing that the lifting of restrictions on travel to Cuba, telecommunications and remittances were steps in the right direction.  However, those actions were limited in scope and only modified some aspects of the blockade.  Noting that CARICOM remained “guardedly optimistic” about the United States recent overtures resulting in a willingness to consider the concerns of its international partners, he voiced hope that the few remaining “historical wrongs” would be righted expeditiously.

MARCELO E. SCAPPINI RICCIARDI (Paraguay) speaking for the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba was a very important first step towards normalization of relations, and one that would bring greater stability to the Latin American region.  However, the embargo — imposed unilaterally — continued to weigh on the Cuban people, and it had prevented the normal development of that country. 

Voicing his rejection of such unilateral measures, which caused irreparable damage to the well-being of the Cuban people, he said that the embargo constituted a violation of the Charter’s principles.  MERCOSUR was committed to multilateralism, he said, adding that now more than ever, the time had come to put an end to the unilateral embargo.  He would, therefore, strongly endorse the resolution, which had been submitted for the twenty-fourth time in the General Assembly, and he urged all delegations to vote in favour of it.

DATO’ RAMLAN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), speaking for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that for the past 14 years ASEAN member States had voted unanimously in favour of the resolution to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States against Cuba.  States should settle their differences through engagement and inclusion, not confrontation and isolation, and in accordance with the Charter’s principles of sovereign equality, non-interference and non-intervention.

The restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, as well as the lifting of a number of restrictions on travel and remittances by the United States were important first steps towards the normalization of bilateral relations, he went on to say.  However, an even more important step would be ending the embargo against Cuba.  It would improve the Cuban people’s quality of life and living standards and contribute to the economic and social development of the country.  He urged the United States and Cuba to “chart a new way forward” by engaging in an open and constructive dialogue without preconditions and underpinned by mutual respect.

JORGE MONTAÑO (Mexico) said that the embargo against Cuba ran counter to international law and relations among States.  Multilateralism was the best way to resolve disputes.  The only bodies which could apply sanctions were the Security Council and the General Assembly.  No State should use force to impose unilateral measures affecting the development and prosperity of other peoples.  Welcoming the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, he added that those renewed relations would decisively strengthen cooperation among all.  Removing the economic embargo against Cuba would help to shift its economy and assure full financial flows and trade relations, with benefits for the whole region.

MARÍA E. MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) highlighted the process of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba.  Since the adoption of resolution 47/19 in 1992, her Government — like the overwhelming majority of the membership of the United Nations — had voted in favour of the resolution.  The 188 votes in favour that led to the adoption of the resolution had reaffirmed the need to put an end to that policy.  The embargo ran counter to international law and counter to the spirit and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. 

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said she opposed the imposition of any unilateral embargo and coercive measures by one State on another and therefore would vote in favour of today’s resolution.  The United States blockade against Cuba for more than five decades was contrary to international law and the fundamental principles of the Charter and had caused “untold hardship” to the Cuban people.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would not be realized if the fundamental freedoms and rights of a Member State continued to be disregarded.  At the same time, she welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, as well as its President’s urging of the United States Congress to lift the blockade.  Such action would benefit the people of both countries.

OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and the advancement of relations in some areas.  However, those actions were insufficient.  Steps should be taken by the United States for a “full normalization of relations”.  Restricted access to food, technology and other areas was generating unnecessary suffering for the people of Cuba.  The status quo was morally insupportable.  For over fifty years the Cuban people had survived due to their perseverance and hope.  The United States should seize the historic opportunity and put an end to the unjustified embargo which never should have existed. 

RAFAEL RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with CELAC, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, said that the embargo represented a system of unilateral sanctions that were unjust, severe and long-lasting.  The massive human cost to the Cuban people was a flagrant violation of the right to self-determination and development.  The United States had sought to break Cuba’s resolve to build a free and sovereign nation by attempting to isolate it, but the current vote only confirmed that it was the United States that was isolated.  The vote was a message to the United States to stop trying to police the world and impose its own visions on it, in violation of international law and sovereignty.  While welcoming the re-establishment of bilateral relations between the two Governments, he said that if the United States wanted friendship with the world it should stop interfering in other country’s internal affairs and refrain from exporting its economic and political visions.

ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI (India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the positive steps in bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States.  However, the continued existence of the embargo undermined multilateralism and the credibility of the Organization itself.  It had a negative impact on the Cuban economy which was forced to bear considerable costs in sourcing products, technology and services and by discouraging investment into the country.  Despite that, the Cuban people had made notable socioeconomic progress, including in meeting several of the Millennium Development Goals.  With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, all nations were urged to refrain from applying unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law or the Charter that impeded economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.  In view of that, the international community needed to redouble its efforts to promote an environment free from sanctions or embargoes.  He said he hoped the recent thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba would lead to an early withdrawal of the embargo.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the Non-aligned Movement, the Group of 77, the African Group and the OIC, as well as CARICOM and MERCOSUR, said that the annual adoption of a resolution calling for the lifting of the embargo on Cuba reiterated the need to put an end to the situation.  Algeria also commended the many Cuban doctors and nurses who joined the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  Their struggle had been an example to follow and an inspiration.  Welcoming the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, he added that the development was a positive sign that ultimately paved the way for full normalization.

COLLIN BECK (Solomon Islands), also speaking for Nauru, said “we must recognize Cuba’s conviction, principles and values that govern its progress and prosperity,” and allow the Cuban people to enjoy the same quality of life as its neighbours.  Noting the overwhelming support annually for the resolution, he pointed out that it was the twenty-third year the Assembly was dealing with an issue more than five decades old, and one that had been through eleven United States and three Cuban presidents.

Still, he said, optimism and change was “in the air”, as he welcomed “the new dawn breaking in Cuba and United States relations”.  Restoration of diplomatic relations was a first step.  Nonetheless, the United States legislative branch must repeal laws enforcing the embargo.  The world stood to benefit.  Thanking the Government and people of Cuba for medical scholarships provided to Pacific small island developing States, he noted that over the last three years more than 60 doctors from the region had been trained in Cuba and had returned to their own countries to work as medical personnel.  Expressing support for the resolution, he called on all peace-loving countries to support the draft resolution as presented.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the lifting of the embargo against Cuba was long overdue.  The unilateral blockade imposed by the United States for the achievement of its own political aims was unjustified in the modern world.  It was a relic from the past that had caused colossal damage to Cuba’s socioeconomic development.  The sanctions were a vestige of the cold war that would hinder the country from achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Noting the easing of certain aspects of the blockade, he stated his belief that its final abolition would be a logical step in the evolution of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.  He also stated his hope that the latter would make every effort in that regard, taking into account public opinion in the United States which favoured an end to the embargo.  That would also lead to economic and social development in the region.  Taking into account the United Nations Charter, he, like most of the Member States, called for the urgent lifting of the blockade against Cuba.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, CELAC and MERCOSUR, welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  Also welcoming the progress made by Cuba in updating its economic model, he added that along those lines, cooperation was needed with other partners from near and far.  However, that cooperation was impeded by the embargo.  He appealed that space for dialogue and cooperation be established in order to bring an end to the embargo, which was a violation of the Charter of the United Nations. 

LIU JIEYI (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that under the new circumstances, it was necessary to immediately put an end to sanctions and the embargo against Cuba.  It was regrettable that the General Assembly’s resolutions had not been implemented over the years, and that the United States embargo remained in effect.  Not only did that violate the Charter and relevant General Assembly resolutions, but it had inflicted losses on Cuba, adversely affecting commercial and financial actions between that country and others.  With the restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba, he expressed hope that the countries would maintain dialogue and consultation.  In addition, he hoped that the United States would completely remove the policy of blockade against Cuba and that they would develop normal relations, which would be in the interest of both countries and conducive to peace in the entire region. 

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77, Non-Aligned Movement, CELAC and MERCOSUR, cited a recent Agence France-Presse news report about a young Cuban girl, Noemi Bernardez, who needed chemotherapy.  She had a 70 per cent chance of surviving if she received medication and only a 20 per cent chance if she did not.  Her chances of survival were decreased due to the illegal blockade imposed on her country by the United States.  That demonstrated that the embargo affected the Cuba’s health care, nutrition, foreign trade, finance, tourism and civil aviation sectors among others.  The United States had imposed an unjust, illegitimate, immoral, illegal embargo that violated the United Nations Charter. The embargo also violated the sovereign equality of States and human rights.  The whole international community was a victim of the embargo because of its extraterritorial nature.

BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that in December 2014, President Obama had recognized that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against Cuba had failed, was obsolete, had not met the originally envisaged goals and had caused damage to the Cuban people and resulted in isolation to the United States Government.  Still, the United States Administration’s measures that entered into force in January 2015, although positive, only modified in a very limited way some elements related to the implementation of the blockade.

The facts showed that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against Cuba was being fully and completely implemented, he stated.  The blockade was supported by a comprehensive system of previously established sanctions and laws.  Noting that fines had been imposed on banks for doing transactions with Cuba and other States, he added that Cuban food purchases in the United States were subject to discriminatory and onerous conditions, under which Cuba was forced to pay in cash and in advance through banking entities of third countries.  In addition, Cuba was not allowed to use its own vessels to transport those products.

The imports of medicines and medical equipment that his country needed was subject to similar limitations, he said, detailing several cases of American pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies being impeded from doing business with Cuba.  The human damages the blockade had caused were inestimable.  The economic damages it had caused after more than half a century amounted to some $121 billion at current prices.  Although it was up to the United States Congress to put an end to the blockade, President Obama had broad executive prerogatives to substantially modify its practical implementation and its humanitarian and economic impact.

Cuba would never negotiate its socialist system or its internal affairs, he emphasized.  A human rights dialogue with a reciprocal character and despite the two countries’ “huge differences” had been initiated.  Expressing gratitude to all who had supported the fairness and urgency of the elimination of the blockade, he said that Cuba would continue to present the draft resolution for as long as the blockade persisted.  On behalf of the “heroic, self-sacrificing and fraternal” people of Cuba, he asked for delegations’ vote in favour of the draft resolution.

Action on Draft Resolution

In explanation of position before the vote, the representative of the United States said that in December 2014 his country had announced a new direction in relations with Cuba.  Since then it had taken historic measures in adjusting its regulations related to the country.  However, the draft resolution did not reflect any of those positive steps.  It was regrettable that Cuba had once again pushed for it.  On July 20 2015, the two nations had opened embassies in their respective countries, he noted, adding that it was the first time a United States Secretary of State had been to Cuba since 1945.  Since then his country had met with Cuban officials in Havana to discuss a broad range of cooperation, including in law enforcement, counter-narcotics and human rights. 

By the end of 2015, he went on to say, the United States planned to announce several concrete accomplishments.  The embargo would be lifted as soon as possible.  That was a goal shared by the international community.  It could not be expected that the two nations would forget their past overnight, but progress had been made so far.  Although he was dismayed at the tabling of a nearly identical resolution to years past, he stressed his country was committed to pursuing genuine bilateral cooperation with Cuba.

The representative of Nicaragua, stating she would vote in favour of the resolution, said her country stood in solidarity with the Cuban people against the criminal embargo.  The blockade had caused hardship, denied supplies and was an attempt to overthrow the Government of Cuba.  It violated international law and was a “genocidal policy” and a massive violation of the Cuban people’s human rights.  It was time to put an end to it.  The Group of 77, CELAC, the OIC and the African Union had all rejected the United States policy and she called for an immediate end to the embargo.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 191 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States).

In explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Luxembourg, speaking for the European Union said that while the United States trade policy towards Cuba was fundamentally a bilateral issue, the effects and side effects of extraterritorial legislation and of unilateral administrative and judicial measures were also negatively affecting the European Union’s economic interests.  The United States legislation, such as the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, had extended the effects of the United States embargo to third-party countries.  Thus, in the framework of its Common Commercial Policy, the European Union had firmly and continuously opposed such extraterritorial measures in order to protect the interests of natural or legal persons residing in Europe against the consequences of those “Acts”.  Recalling the European Union and the United States agreement in 1998 to alleviate problems with extraterritorial legislation, he said it was urgent that the United States fully respect and implement that agreement.

While political relations between the European Union and Cuba were formally guided by the 1996 Common Position, both sides were engaged in a process of negotiation to define a new and ambitious framework, he went on to say.  Since 2014, they had embarked on the negotiation of a political dialogue and cooperation agreement.  Also, as respect for human rights was at the core of the European Union’s external relations, a first dedicated high-level discussion with Cuba had taken place in June 2015.  Underscoring the right of Cubans to decide independently on their future, he called on the Cuban Government to fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms.  He urged Cuban authorities to bring about “real improvements” in the lives of its people.  The European Union was ready to accompany Cuba on its path of reform and modernization.

The representative of Argentina, associating himself with the Group of 77, CELAC and MERCOSUR, said that recent developments were providing a glimmer of hope for the region.  While he was optimistic regarding the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, he expressed concern that the embargo continued to stifle the Cuban people in a shameful manner.  In spite of the new context, the embargo continued to exist.  It hindered the Cuban people’s development in economic and social terms.  Cuba could not export or import its products freely to or from the United States.  That caused economic harm and impeded development.  The embargo was morally unsustainable, he stressed, joining in supporting the call to lift the embargo.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, said the diplomatic recognition of Cuba by the United States symbolized a total failure of the latter’s hostile policy.  The embargo had existed for several decades and was an attempt to overthrow the legitimate socialist system of the Cuban people.  The extraterritorial “Helms-Burton Act” that expanded sanctions to other countries aiming to develop economic ties with Cuba, was hampering the peaceful and stable development of the region.  Rejecting all forms of interference in internal affairs and sanctions against sovereign States, he said he had voted in favour of the resolution and strongly urged the United States to lift the embargo once and for all.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, associating herself with CARICOM, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, welcomed the decision by President Obama towards normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, but noted that the blockade remained intact.  She called the ongoing embargo a flagrant and systematic violation of the rights of an entire people.  Due to its extraterritorial nature it violated the sovereign rights of many other States as well.  Emphasizing that, in contrast to wealthier nations and institutions, the Cuban people had “rolled up their sleeves and given freely of themselves” to help her country’s development, she said, “No dollar amount could reflect the value of this support.”  She expressed the hope that next year there would be no need to vote on the resolution again.

The representative of Sudan, associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group, the Group of 77 and the OIC, said that the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted just a few weeks ago, included a paragraph which urged Member States to refrain from applying unilateral financial and commercial measures that ran counter to the principles of the United Nations and international law, especially in developing countries.  The General Assembly had always reiterated its rejection of coercive measures that adversely affected socioeconomic development in developing countries.  Welcoming the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, he added that the expectation was that similar positive steps would culminate in eventually completely lifting the embargo.

The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations which had opened a new chapter between the two countries.  He expressed concern at the continuing unilateral embargo against Cuba, adding that the elimination of such an embargo would be of mutual benefit to both countries, thus contributing to the improvement of the well-being of the Cuban people.

The representative of Belarus emphasized that unilateral coercive measures as a means of putting political and economic pressure on sovereign States were against international law as laid out in the Organization’s Charter and the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law.  There was no such thing as “good” unilateral coercive measures.  They always benefitted the political ambitions of the initiating countries and never took into account the interests of countries being subjected to them.  The financial and economic blockade against Cuba had created artificial barriers to trade, hampered economic development and infringed on the rights and interests of the Cuban people.  It was the inalienable right of each country to decide its own model of development without interference in its internal political system by military or political means.  He called for the urgent lifting of the blockade against Cuba.  The complete lifting of sanctions could serve as an important practical step in the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, said the decades-long embargo had created an unacceptable situation which ran counter to international law and had caused economic harm.  For twenty-four consecutive years the Assembly had met and confirmed the inhuman nature of the embargo, with today’s vote of 191 countries in favour of the resolution reaffirming its illegitimacy.  Coercive measures had also been taken against Syria, negatively affecting its economy.  The Assembly should end all unilateral coercive measures.  Underscoring his hope that the United States would heed the international community’s voice, he said he had voted in favour of the resolution.

The representative of El Salvador, associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said that it was important to note that the process of détente between Cuba and the United States had also had a positive effect on the whole region.  The continuation of the embargo and multimillion dollar fines on economic activity related to Cuba generated large commercial losses and damaged the Cuban people.  Stressing that his country was committed to working for peaceful coexistence between nations, he repeated the aspirations of El Salvador’s people, namely that the people of the Americas could sit around the same table.

The representative of Tonga welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and the steps taken to modify the embargo.  However, those measures stopped short of lifting the blockade which had caused significant economic damage and resulted in immeasurable suffering for the Cuban people.  Tongan nationals studying in Cuba had also faced difficulties due to the adverse effects of the blockade.  As the longest-lasting unilateral sanctions ever applied to one country, the embargo hindered the economic and social development of the Cuban people.  He joined the call to end it.

The representative of Zambia, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country had voted in favour of the resolution for over two decades.  However, it was of great concern that after 53 years of the embargo and 23 consecutive General Assembly resolutions, sanctions were still in place.  He welcomed the improved relations between the United States and Cuba arising from the measures taken by the United States, but pointed out that Cubans continued to experience the effects of the embargo imposed on their country.  He reassured them of his countrymen’s continued solidarity and said they would continue to support the United Nations call for lifting the economic blockade.

The representative of Israel said that his country had followed the adoption of the resolution with great interest and welcomed the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.  Given his country’s special relationship with the latter, he had voted against the resolution.

The representative of Indonesia, supporting the ending of the embargo, said “We must without delay overcome this relic of another time, for it has no raison d’être in the new millennium that we are building together.”  It was against the principle of the sovereign equality of Member States and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.  In addition, it had caused significant economic and social hardship that could hardly be justified on humanitarian grounds.  The sanctions were counter-productive and had curbed opportunities and economic benefits for Cuba and other countries.  The time was ripe for the parties involved to transform their relationship through constructive engagement.  Cuba should be able to develop and grow, unhindered by restriction to its trade and other business activities.

The representative of Angola, associating himself with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, said he had voted in favour of the resolution.  Although the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States was warmly welcomed, that did not provide relief to the Cuban people from restrictions they were experiencing.  The blockade impeded development, violated human rights and went against the Charter and rules of global trade.  The blockade had so far cost the Cuba over $121 billion.  It was regrettable that the United States had continued on its course of action especially in view of Cuba’s commitment to helping other countries in need.  Its assistance to West Africa during the Ebola epidemic was commendable.  He called on the international community to promote constructive and transparent dialogue between the two countries to end the embargo.

The representative of Zimbabwe, associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that over the past 24 years the Assembly had demanded an unconditional lifting of embargo which had caused enormous human suffering.  Its continuation was indefensible and unjustified.  Despite that Cuba had demonstrated its commitment to collaborate with other countries in the fields of education, health and humanitarian assistance.  Its assistance to West Africa during the Ebola epidemic was a case in point.  He joined other countries in calling for an immediate and unconditional lifting of embargo so that Cubans could chart their own economic and social destiny.

The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis, aligning himself with the Group of 77, CARICOM and CELAC, welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  The blockade had created impediments to Cuba’s socioeconomic development, with untold repercussions on its economy.  The people of Cuba had been forced to be creative, but in spite of their hardships, the international community had witnessed goodwill.  Reiterating his delegation’s call for an end to unilateral action, he said that the time was opportune for the vestige of a bygone era to be torn down.

The representative of Myanmar, associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said he had voted in favour of the resolution to demonstrate opposition to the economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.  A growing number of Member States had shown their strong support for that country’s Government and people.  Having gone through similar experiences for decades, he said that Myanmar understood the damage caused by sanctions.  In the end, it was counter-productive, as it only affected innocent people.  He welcomed recent positive steps taken by the United States to normalize bilateral relations, voicing hope that such undertakings would lead to a lifting of the embargo.

The representative of Suriname, associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement, OIC, CELAC and CARICOM, pointed out that since 1960 the Cuban people had been suffering hardship from the blockade.  Furthermore, the resulting economic damage to Cuba was enormous and it was unacceptable that third countries suffered when they maintained normal relations with that country.  Notwithstanding the severe challenges and constraints it faced, Cuba had demonstrated its commitment to collaborate with other developing countries and to help when crises emerged.  Therefore, he said it was disheartening that the General Assembly was being requested for the twenty-fourth consecutive time to consider the resolution on ending the embargo.  Now was the time to do the right thing and lift the embargo, which is why he had voted in favour of the resolution.

The representative of Uruguay, aligning herself with MERCOSUR, CELAC and the Group of 77, said her country had voted in favour of the resolution and welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States as a new chapter in their bilateral relations.  The effects of the embargo had hit Cuba hard.  The blockade ran contrary to international law and violated that country’s people human rights.

For information media. Not an official record.