This post is in partnership with Time. The article below was originally published at Time.com.
By Zeke J. Miller, TIME
The United States will begin efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and will open an embassy on the island nation following the release of an American government subcontractor and a swap of intelligence assets, President Barack Obama will announce Wednesday. It marks the most significant change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship since the Cuban revolution.
Following a year of secret back-channel talks in Canada and at the Vatican, and culminating with a historic nearly-hour-long call between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday, the Cuban government released 65-year old Alan Gross on Wednesday on humanitarian grounds. His release clears the way for a broad relaxation of the 53-year U.S. embargo on Cuba.
In a prisoner swap, Cuba released an unnamed U.S. intelligence asset who has been imprisoned for 20 years, while the U.S. government released the final three members of the spy ring known as the “Cuban Five” remaining in federal prison.