President Barack Obama and Raul Castro meet in New York


President Barack Obama met Cuban President Raul Castro on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. It was the second time the two leaders met in person this year after decades of estrangement between the two countries.

[. . .] On Monday, Mr Castro called for an end to US economic sanctions on Cuba. Mr Obama had earlier expressed confidence that Congress would lift the embargo.

[. . .] President Castro told the UN that normal relations with the US would only be possible if the US abolished its trade embargo. The embargo has been in place since 1960 and remains a contentious issue in relations between Cuba and the US.

In his speech to the UN, President Obama said he was confident Congress would “inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore”.

On 27 October the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is again scheduled to discuss a resolution condemning the embargo and calling for its abolition. It is the 24th time the UNGA will vote on the issue, which generally is only opposed by the US and Israel.

Speculation is already rife about how the US will vote this year after its own president dismissed the embargo as counterproductive and behind the times. The resolutions are unenforceable, but a US abstention on a resolution critical of US behaviour would be unprecedented. The Republican-controlled US Congress has so far refused to lift the embargo.

[. . .] US officials said Raul Castro’s presence at the UN, the first time the Cuban leader spoke there, was a signal “that we’re in a new era”. In his speech, President Castro said the normalisation of relations would be “a long and complex process”.

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