12/17/2014 11:21 EST | Updated 02/16/2015 05:59 EST

Cuba reconciliation meetings with U.S. hosted by Canada

Canada played a major role in helping the U.S. and Cuba begin their reconciliation, American officials said today.

High-level U.S. officials, on a conference call to brief reporters about the detente, said there were multiple meetings with Cuban officials in third-party countries. The officials said Canada hosted the majority of these meetings.

No meetings were held on American or Cuban territory.

Canada did not participate in the substance of the discussions, but was indispensable in facilitating and hosting the discussions, an official said.

The Vatican also helped facilitate the reconciliation, which may lead to a resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Pope personally appealed in writing to Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro.

The United States and Cuba have been locked in hostilities for more than half a century, starting in 1959 when Fidel Castro overthrew the then government of Cuba, enhanced ties with the Soviet Union and nationalized U.S.-owned properties.

The U.S. has imposed strict trade embargoes on the Caribbean country, located about 150 kilometres south of Florida, since the early 1960s.

The U.S. cut off diplomatic ties in 1961 and then sent a group of CIA-sponsored Cuban exiles to try to overthrow Castro in a failed mission known as the Bay of Pigs invasion.