Britain joins Cuba against US

Europe unites in UN vote to call for end to 30-year trade embargo

In an extraordinary diplomatic breach with its closest ally, Britain yesterday joined all of its European Union partners in siding against the United States in voting for a resolution at the United Nations calling for an end to the three-decade-long American economic embargo of Cuba. The vote was a landmark in the development of a common European foreign policy.

The dramatic turnaround by Britain and other EU members in a vote at the UN General Assembly was triggered by widespread anger at the US over its recent passage of the so-called Helms-Burton Act, which seeks to penalise foreign companies doing business inside Cuba. The EU has asked the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to declare the legislation illegal.

Approval by the General Assembly of a resolution calling for an end to the US embargo has become an annual ritual that serves to embarrass Washington.Until now, however, Britain and other EU states, including, last year Germany and the Netherlands, have abstained.

Yesterday, however, marked the first time that the EU has adopted a common position on the issue, voting in favour of the Cuban resolution. "This is the first time we have voted as a block in this, and it reflects our common opposition to Helms-Burton," a senior diplomat said.

In a joint statement, the EU said it remained critical of the regime of Fidel Castro and that it recognised that the economic plight in Cuba remained in part of the regime's making. It went on, however, to castigate the US for adopting the Helms-Burton Act. The EU has joined a chorus of foreign protest at the legislation, led also by Canada and Mexico, on the grounds that it represents an illegal extension of US law to foreign countries.

In the bluntly worded statement, the EU declared: "We cannot accept that the United States may unilaterally determine or restrict the European Union's economic and commercial relations with any other state. Measures of this type violate the general principles of international law and the sovereignty of independent states."

Victor Marrero, US representative to the assembly, swiftly fired back, however. "By introducing this resolution ... Cuba has manipulated the concerns of countries around the world to claim support for its reprehensible policies of intolerance and oppression."

The vote comes as one more humiliation in what has already been an unusually difficult week for the US at the United Nations. Only days ago, the US also found itself the victim of hostility over its debt to the UN as well as its efforts to unseat the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, when, for the first time in the UN's history, Washington was denied a seat on the organisation's most important budgetary committee.

Cuba's vice-president, Carlos Lage Davila, said the assembly had voted "not only against a policy that is unfair, but also to make sure that no state, however powerful, may be able to ignore international law".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own