In an unusual development, the United States will for the first time abstain from a vote at the United Nations which calls for an end to the US embargo against Cuba, Ambassador Samantha Power said on Wednesday.
"The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today the United States will abstain," Power told the General Assembly, drawing loud applause.
The 193 UN member states were set to adopt for the 25th time the annual resolution presented by Cuba criticising the embargo, imposed in 1960 at the height of the Cold War.
Washington's abstention was in line with calls from President Barack Obama for the opposition-controlled Congress to lift the decades-old embargo as part of a historic normalization of relations.
The United States restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in July in 2016 and Obama made a landmark visit to the communist-ruled island in March.
But the final decision to restore full trade and financial ties with Cuba would require legislative action by Congress.
Power recalled that Obama had made clear his opposition to the embargo in December 2014 and had acknowledged that the policy designed to isolate Cuba had instead isolated the United States.
Last year, the United States and Israel were the only two countries that voted against the non-binding resolution, but 191 voted in favour -- the highest level of support yet for the measure at the United Nations.
Power said the United States and Cuba must continue to find ways to engage, even as differences persist over human rights.
"Today, we have taken another small step to be able to do that. May there be many more -- including, we hope, finally ending the US embargo," she said.
The assembly has voted each year since 1992 to approve the resolution that highlights Washington's isolation over its Cuba policy.
This year's draft resolution takes note of steps taken by the Obama administration to ease the embargo, describing them as positive but "still limited in scope."
The measure calls on all member states to refrain from applying the embargo and to "reaffirm the freedom of trade and navigation."