UPDATE 1-Canada PM says hosting U.S.-Cuba talks allowed discretion

Wed Dec 17, 2014 3:27pm EST
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(Adds Harper comments, background)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA Dec 17 (Reuters) - Canada's decision to host secret talks between the United States and Cuba on normalizing relations allowed the two countries the discretion they needed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Wednesday.

In a brief statement, Harper congratulated the two on their successful dialogue and said Canada supported a future for Cuba that fully embraced the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

"We were not trying in any way to direct or mediate the talks. We were just trying to make sure that they had the opportunity to have the kind of dialogue they needed to have," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The first direct talks between the United States and Cuba took place in June 2013 in Canada, which hosted the bulk of meetings, U.S. officials said.

Canada has had full diplomatic relations with Cuba since 1945 and Canadian companies have long operated there. Shares in natural resources conglomerate Sherritt International Corp , Cuba's biggest independent energy company, soared 36 percent on Wednesday.

Not all Canadian companies have had the same success as Sherritt. In September, Cuba jailed businessman Cy Tokmakjian for corruption and the affair helped cut Canadian export financing for companies operating there.

Canada and Mexico were the only countries in the hemisphere to maintain ties with Cuba after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.   Continued...