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Canada’s Top Security Advisor Met With Kurdish Leader Amid Clashes With Turkey

According to the Kurdistan Regional Government, the meeting was an opportunity for its foreign minister to ask for more assistance from Canada, and to request that it formally open a mission in the area.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
Image via the Kurdistan Regional Government?

Canada's National Security Advisor held a low-key meeting with a key member of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil last week, as Ottawa navigates its complex relationship with the semi-autonomous regions of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

The meeting comes amid continued fighting with the so-called Islamic State, and renewed hostilities between the Kurds and Turkey.

Richard Fadden, who holds the top-tier security job, was hand-picked by the prime minister and had formerly run Canada's main spy agency. He's filling in for Prime Minister Stephen Harper or one of his ministers, all of whom are on the campaign trail, stumping to be returned with a fourth mandate. The prime minister is campaigning heavily on security and defense issues.

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According to the Kurdish government, Fadden's August 30 visit was an opportunity for Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa to ask for more assistance, and to request that Canada formally open a mission in the area.

"Minister Mustafa called upon the government of Canada to open a representation office in the Kurdistan Region and expressed the desire of the KRG to strengthen ties in all fields with the government of Canada," a release from the KRG reads.

Mustafa had been personally responsible for pitching Ottawa on increased military aid for the Peshmerga, who are currently making gains in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

"We need tanks, we need armored personnel carriers, we need Humvees, we need anti-tank missiles in order to win the battle," Mustafa told Motherboard during a visit to Canada last November. "Our enemy has it. We don't have it."

Mustafa's calls have, thus far, gone unfulfilled.

Related: Turkey Drops Bombs on Kurdish Group That Has Fought the Islamic State in Iraq

Canada previously ferried Soviet-era weaponry, contributed by European allies, to the front lines in Kurdistan, primarily arming the People's Protection Units (YPG) forces throughout Northern Iraq.

Canadian defense minister Jason Kenney told VICE in March that while Canada wanted to contribute more arms, the ammunition stockpiles are simply barren, or inoperable with the YPG's kits.

But, for the first time since the Kurds picked up arms against the IS militants, a lack of arms might not be the biggest problem the KRG is facing.

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While previously Ankara had sat out much of the fighting, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan struck an agreement with Washington in August that would see Turkey's fighter jets leading strikes against the expanding IS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.

Since then, columnists have opined that the West was "duped" in the agreement, which has seen Ankara targeting the Kurds to a significant degree. Airstrikes and military raids have pitted the Turkish military in skirmishes against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought alongside the Peshmerga in recent years. The YPG has even accused the Turks of targeting their units on at least one occasion.

Much of the renewed hostilities began with a massive suicide attack in Suruç, in which 32 young Kurds were killed by a Turkish student with ties to IS. Kurdish groups immediately blamed the Turkish government for failing to prevent the attack — either through negligence, or deliberately. The fighting has seen PKK militants targeting Turkish soldiers and police officers.

The entire situation — that a NATO country is targeting a force allied to every other NATO nation — has led to headaches.

Yet while American President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande have chastised Erdogan, warning him to drop his campaign against the Kurds, Harper has remained mum.

VICE News has tried to question the prime minister on the matter, but staffers with Harper's Conservative Party have forbidden the questions.

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Fadden and Mustafa also discussed the refugee crisis currently plaguing much of the area. The Canadian advisor, the release says, "highly spoke of KRG's open door policy towards refugees and displaced people without any consideration to their religious or ethnic background."

VICE News has asked Fadden's office for more details about the meeting, but has yet to receive a response.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling 

Watch the VICE News documentary, PKK Youth: Fighting for Kurdish Neighborhoods: