Official: US can't abstain from UN vote on Cuba embargo

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2015 3:24 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has concluded that it must oppose a U.N. resolution criticizing the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, an American official familiar with the process said Wednesday, because the draft in its current form doesn't "fully reflect" the new spirit of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

The official left open the possibility that the U.S. would change its position, in the unlikely event Cuba amends the text. Officials had been hoping for a compromise that would allow the U.S. to abstain, an unprecedented step that would effectively pit President Barack Obama's administration with the world body against the Republican-led Congress, which has refused to repeal the 54-year embargo.

The U.N. General Assembly vote is on Oct. 27 and Cuba will win overwhelmingly. Such resolutions are unenforceable, but the annual ritual serves to highlight Washington's overwhelming isolation on the issue and frame the "blockade," as the Cubans call it, as illegitimate. Last year's tally was 188-2, with only Israel siding with the United States.

This year's vote was seen as potentially different, however, coming after the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations and both countries' ongoing efforts to improve commercial ties. And in a surprising wrinkle, U.S. officials told The Associated Press in September that the United States could abstain instead of voting against the resolution as it has done for the past 23 years — if the language differed significantly from past versions.

Officials also said the U.S. was open to discussing revisions with the Cubans and others, something American diplomats had never done before.

Just six days away from the vote, those efforts appear to have proved insufficient.

"Regrettably the resolution tabled looks very similar to resolutions from previous years, and doesn't appear to fully reflect the spirit of engagement that President Obama has championed as the best way to advance our shared interests with Cuba," a U.S. official familiar with the text told the AP on Wednesday. The official wasn't authorized to be quoted by name and demanded anonymity.