OTTAWA, Canada (Kurdistan24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) recently asked Canada to upgrade its diplomatic presence in Kurdistan to accompany its military presence.
The Liberal government of Canada recently appointed a full-time ambassador to Iraq and increased the number of Canadian diplomats in Jordan and Lebanon.
Canada said it had not made a decision on increasing economic or political ties with Kurds whose stated desire for independence makes governments weary of endangering the stability of Iraq.
Canada has had a trade office in the capital of the Kurdistan region, Erbil, since 2013, but the KRG urged Canada to upgrade it to a consulate general.
“We would very much like to upgrade that into a full-fledged consul general so that it will be able to have political consultations, economic co-operation, cultural aspects,” Falah Mustafa, head of the KRG’s Foreign Relations Office, said.
“We believe that there is a lot we can benefit from Canada and a lot we can work together,” he added.
Canada sent hundreds of troops and spent millions of dollars in foreign aid in Iraq since the summer of 2014 when the Islamic State (IS) first emerged as a threat.
Peshmerga fighters have been on the front lines against IS, and Kurds are hosting millions of refugees in camps throughout their territory.
Acknowledging Canada’s military and humanitarian support, Mustafa said the Kurds would like to see it help Kurdistan grow and succeed in the long term.
“Since we are committed to good governance, transparency, and good delivery, we need to be helped and assisted, institutionally, so that we meet that objective,” he said.
“Therefore, it is important for us if Canada [can] help us, support us, and provide us the necessary institutional techniques to do so,” Mustafa added.
Press Secretary for Global Affairs Canada Alex Lawrence said Canada had not yet made a decision about upgrading the Erbil office.
However, he mentioned Canada had “progressively expanded [their] diplomatic presence in Iraq” in recent years.
Thomas Juneau, an expert on Middle Eastern politics at the University of Ottawa, said the government’s decision to appoint a full-time ambassador to Iraq was “years too late.”
“Since we had started the mission against [IS] in 2014, not having a permanent ambassador in Iraq was a big weakness for our ability to coordinate the mission and liaise with Iraqi authorities,” he explained.
When Canadian soldiers first arrived in Kurdistan to help fight IS, they wore the Kurds’ distinctive red, white, and green flag on their uniforms next to the Canadian maple leaf.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany