World Bulletin / News Desk
Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan on Monday met with the president of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Region Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, in the city of Erbil to discuss the security situation in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East region.
According to a statement issued by Barzani’s office, the two men also discussed relations between the KRG, Baghdad and Ottawa.
"We would like to thank Canada, which is a member of the international coalition [against the ISIL militant group], for its support for the Kurdish people," Barzani said in the statement.
"International efforts are needed to sweep ISIL from the area," he added. "A lack of solidarity serves ISIL’s interests."
Sajjan, for his part, said the aim of his visit was to observe the condition of refugees in the Kurdish region and the Kurdish peshmerga forces currently fighting ISIL.
"The Canadian people are aware of the courage of the peshmerga," he said. "I would like to express my condolences to those peshmerga who have lost their lives in the fight against terror."
He added: "We can’t ignore the role played by President Barzani in ensuring regional stability and countering terrorism."
Sajjan added that, despite the difficult regional circumstances, it was important that refugees be admitted into the KRG region.
"It’s a great display of generosity to admit these suffering people [into the region] without discriminating against them on the basis of race or religion -- despite the country’s current economic, security and political crises," he said.
Sajjan also visited the Hazir front near Erbil to observe peshmerga forces in action.
At a subsequent press conference, he said another aim of his visit was to see Canadian troops provide peshmerga with military training.
"We have seen that the training provided by our troops has played a significant role fighting terrorism," the defense minister said.