November 23, 2015 / 10:35 PM / 4 years ago

Iraqi Kurdistan minister urges Canada to boost aid to fight ISIS

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The top diplomat for Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday urged Canada to provide more aid in the fight against Islamic State, particularly if the newly-elected Liberal government follows through on a pledge to halt airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s department of foreign relations, said his government would respect the decision of the Canadian government if it withdraws fighter jets from the region, but would like to see more support in the form of weapons ammunition, equipment, training and capacity building.

“As someone who has come from the front lines I have seen the impact of the airstrikes. Our experience is that these strikes have been effective,” Bakir said.

“If that (withdrawal) was a decision of the Canadian government of course we respect that, but at the same time we would like to ask for the expansion of other types of support so it would be compensated.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that Canada will stick to its plan to pull six jets from bombing missions against Islamic State, despite the group’s claiming responsibility for attacks in Paris that killed at least 130 people and which prompted the United States, France, Britain and others to promise more strikes.

Bakir was speaking in Calgary as part of a nearly week-long visit to Canada.

He will also visit Ottawa and Montreal, and met Canada’s defense minister, Harjit Sajjan, at a security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, over the weekend.

Bakir said the primary purpose of his visit was to thank Canada for its support in the fight against Islamic State, but also to highlight the struggle by Iraqi Kurdistan to combat the militant group and provide for nearly 2 million refugees.

The minister said the cost of the war and caring for refugees, combined with a sustained drop in oil prices and not having a budget from the Iraqi government in Baghdad, was proving “too difficult,” and that Kurdish peshmerga forces were three months behind on their pay.

“As I said, we are grateful for Canada, for the role it has played, for the role it has provided, but I believe in order to win this war we need to get the right weapons and the right ammunition,” Bakir added.

Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Leslie Adler

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