Prime Minister Stephen Harper today concluded a successful visit to the Middle East that included stops in Iraq and Kuwait.
During the visit, Prime Minister Harper met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani, to hear first hand of the security, humanitarian and development challenges facing the country. The leaders discussed Canada’s military contribution and collaboration within the international coalition against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), strengthening bilateral relations, and ways to support stability and prosperity in Iraq over the long-term.
To help address a number of the challenges discussed, in Baghdad, Iraq, Prime Minister Harper announced significant new support for life-saving humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria. Among other things, this additional assistance will support the provision of food, clean water, shelter, sanitation, health care and other basic services, and help address sexual and gender-based violence.
In Erbil, Iraq, the Prime Minister announced additional Canadian support for development and stabilization initiatives that will help improve water, sanitation and hygiene; rehabilitate infrastructure and schools; provide psychosocial and child protection services; improve governance; assist investigations into human rights violations in conflict-affected areas; and clear explosive remnants of war. The Prime Minister also announced that Canada would be providing bomb disposal robots and night vision goggles to help support security in Iraq and further protect the lives of Iraqi and international coalition forces.
In Kuwait, the Prime Minister joined members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) stationed there for a meal and an overnight stay to thank them personally for their courage and efforts in the fight against ISIS. He was joined by retired National Hockey League stars Paul Coffey and Ryan Smyth. The Prime Minister also met with the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, whom he thanked for hosting the CAF. The leaders discussed regional security and humanitarian challenges, as well as bilateral issues, including trade and investment. They highlighted 50 years of strong diplomatic relations.
Canada is a leading member in the international coalition against ISIS. Canada’s current military contribution to the coalition, known as Operation IMPACT, was recently extended to March 30, 2016. It includes: up to 69 Canadian Special Operations Forces personnel to advise and assist Iraqi forces in northern Iraq; a key aerial enabler force package consisting of approximately 280 aircrew and other personnel, one CC-150 Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft, up to two CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft, as required; a strike force package consisting of approximately 320 aircrew and other personnel, and up to six CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft, participating in coalition air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. In addition, Canada has provided approximately $10 million in non-lethal equipment to Iraqi forces and transported over one million pounds of military equipment and ammunition donated by allies for Iraqi forces.
Canada is a top tier humanitarian donor to help alleviate the suffering caused by the crises in Iraq and Syria and has contributed generously to international efforts to aid the people in the region.
During the trip, Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid a visit to the St. Elia Church in Erbil, Iraq, one of the new projects designated to receive support. The assistance will help the church address the basic needs of families fleeing religious persecution by ISIS, including shelter, food and clean water.
“I am pleased to wrap-up a highly productive visit to Iraq and Kuwait. I learned first-hand from Iraqi and Kuwaiti leaders about the challenges facing the region and conveyed Canada’s continued support for their efforts against ISIS. I announced additional humanitarian, development and security initiatives to help civilians affected by the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria, and to enhance Iraq’s long-term stability and prosperity. Perhaps most importantly I got to convey my personal thanks to Canadian troops for helping protect our own citizens as well as innocent children, women and men in the region from the barbaric actions of ISIS.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper