TORONTO — Canada hosted about seven meetings between the U.S. and Cuba that helped lead to President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that the two countries will establish full diplomatic relations, a senior Canadian government official said.
The meetings were held in Ottawa and Toronto from 2013 to 2014, according to the official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authority to discuss the meetings publicly.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada did not play a role in the discussions themselves.
"I don't want to exaggerate Canada's role. We facilitated places where the two countries could have a dialogue and explore ways on normalizing relations," Harper told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "We were not trying in any way to direct or mediate the talks. We just wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to have the kind of dialogue they needed to have."
Senior U.S. officials said Canada was "indispensable" in hosting the majority of the secret talks, and Obama thanked Canada earlier Wednesday.
Harper called the announcement an overdue development, saying "I personally believe changes are coming in Cuba and this will facilitate those."