0,,18747244_303,00At the UN General Assembly, Cuban President Raul Castro has called for the normalization of relations with the United States. But he added that this would only be possible if Washington ended its trade embargo.

HAVANA,  Sept. 9 In his first speech as president before the annual United Nations General Assembly , Cuban President Raul Castro noted the recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States as a positive development. But he added that it was only the beginning of a “long and complex process” towards normalization of relations.

Castro stuck closely to Cuba’s standard foreign policy, demanding that the United States end its economic embargo and close its naval base at Guantanamo Bay as well as cease radio and television broadcasts into Cuba.
In addition, Castro repeated long-standing demands for compensation for financial losses for the half-century-plus economic blockade. Castro received sustained applause for his speech.

In the past, Cuban officials had put a $116-billion (103.2-billion-euro) price tag on such retributions, but the Cuban president did not attach a dollar amount to the demands in his speech on Monday.

Hopeful moves on embargo
While US President Barack Obama and Castro initiated the re-establishment of diplomatic relations earlier this year, the economic and financial embargo of Cuba – which only the US Congress can lift – continues.

Obama also called for an end to the US embargo on Havana at the United Nations, saying that he was confident that the US Congress would “inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.”

The embargo, in place since 1960, remains a bone of contention in the United States, as the Republican-held Congress has refrained from supporting the administration’s move to re-establish diplomatic ties between the two nations.

UN support
The General Assembly was set to discuss a new draft resolution condemning the ongoing US embargo against Cuba at a session next month.

The assembly has voted each year since 1982 to approve a resolution calling on the United States to lift the embargo.

Castro also highlighted other issues in his speech, including what he referred to as the “militarization of cyberspace,” meaning the covert use of information technologies to gather intelligence on and attack other states.

His speech also focused on climate change, decrying the trend as a result of consumerism.

ss/cmk (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)