With a tentative ceasefire established early Friday and both sides ready to sit down and talk, the envoy from Kurdistan’s regional government to the United States says now is the time for Canada to speak out and get involved.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman said the Kurds, who recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, don’t expect Ottawa to pick sides.
COMMENTARY: Canada should support Kurdish independence
“It is important that statements are made,” Abdul Rahman said.
“And more than statements, that there is an engagement. Then it’s clear to our partners in Iraq, to our neighbours in the neighbourhood — by that I mean Iran and Turkey — that the Kurds aren’t alone. That the international community wants to see an outcome that is peaceful.”
The results of the September independence referendum triggered fresh hostilities between Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq.
Both sides had, in recent years, been busy fighting against the so-called Islamic State along with coalition forces that include troops from both the United States and Canada. But the fall of the terror group has meant old tensions are beginning to resurface.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently offered to help broker a peace between the Iraqi and Kurdish sides, both of whom lay claim to disputed northern territories, border crossing and oil-producing facilities.
But so far, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not waded into the dispute and has refused to comment on the recent referendum. Canada is also reportedly re-evaluating a plan to continue arming Kurdish forces.
WATCH: Trudeau says it is ‘too early’ to weigh in on Kurdish referendum
Abdul Rahman, in Ottawa last week at the invitation of a group of MPs, said Kurdish representatives have been in touch with officials at Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence, among others.
“Canada has tools that it can use,” she said. “Canada has been a key partner in the coalition in the fight against ISIS … Canada is an important player in the UN … Canada also has the ear of Washington.”
The U.S., she added, recently has become more explicit in its support for a peaceful resolution, and has acknowledged that the disputed territories are just that: disputed.
Recognizing the results of the independence referendum, according to Abdul Rahman, is now secondary, and far less important that openly encouraging dialogue and helping the two sides reach consensus.
“We are now two weeks into this, and we need the international community to act. And specifically we’re asking Canada not to choose … you can support both of us. Otherwise there is a potential for war in Iraq and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interest.”
— Watch the full interview with Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United States, above.