UNITED NATIONS – The UN General Assembly on Wednesday called for an end to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba in a resolution that did not draw any votes against it for the first time.
A total of 191 countries voted in favor of the resolution, as they have on two-dozen other occasions, while the United States and Israel, who had cast “no” votes in the past, abstained this time around.
The change in the United States’ position comes amid a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations that began in December 2014 and has seen the two countries reopen their embassies and the Obama administration make amendments to the sanctions regime imposed on Cuba under the decades-old economic embargo.
A complete lifting of the 54-year-old embargo, which Obama supports, will depend on the now-Republican-controlled Congress.
Wednesday’s resolution is “a perfect example of why the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, adding that the former policy toward the island isolated the United States instead of Cuba.
But the United States’ decision to abstain from the vote “does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not,” Power said.
She added that the United States was “profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people.”
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the United States’ decision to abstain from the vote was a “positive step,” but lamented that the embargo remained in place.
The UN General Assembly’s resolutions are legally non-binding.