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Cuba The Swiss who helped to prevent World War III

When the Americans decided to normalise relations with Cuba this summer, it put an end to half a century of Swiss diplomatic mediation. (SRF/swissinfo.chexternal link)

From 1961, the Swiss Embassy in Havana represented the interests of the US in Cuba, while the Swiss Embassy in Washington did the same for Cuban interests in the US from 1991.

The Swiss ambassador to Havana, Emil Stadelhofer, played a role in everything from the Cuban missile crisis, a conflict that nearly started World War III, to the mass exodus of Cuban refugees to the US starting in 1965.

Papers published by Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland, a research project to edit key documents on Swiss foreign relations, make it clear that the Swiss were trusted interlocutors in efforts to bring Washington and Havana closer together during the darkest hours of the Cold War.

Peter Kornbluh, co-author of a book, Back Channel to Cuba, about bilateral US/Cuban efforts towards rapprochement and reconciliation, says Stadelhofer’s close ties with the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, probably prevented the nationalisation of the US embassy in 1964.