OTTAWA – The White House is extending its thanks to Canada for hosting the meetings that let to the United States and Cuba agreeing to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties.
Senior Obama administration officials say Canada was “indispensable” in hosting the majority of the secret talks, which took place for more than a year.
They say the first face-to-face talks with the Cubans took place in Canada in June of last year, with several other discussions taking place since then. Canada did not take part in the talks, however.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement congratulating the two countries on reaching their agreement, which marks a historic shift in U.S. policy after a half-century of enmity towards Cuba dating back to the Cold War.
The announcement coincided with the release of American prisoner Alan Gross, as well as a swap for a U.S. intelligence asset held in Cuba and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.
Pope Francis was also personally engaged in the process and sent separate letters to Obama and Castro this summer urging them to restart relations.
“Canada supports a future for Cuba that fully embraces the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Harper said in his statement.
“Canada was pleased to host the senior officials from the United States and Cuba, which permitted them the discretion required to carry out these important talks.”
— With files from The Associated Press