Canadian Ambassador to Iraq Paul Gibbard (L) meets KDP President Masoud Barzani, October 17, 2018. Photo: Office of Masoud Barzani
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Paul Gibbard, Canada’s first resident ambassador to Iraq since 1991, headed a diplomatic delegation to meet Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani on Wednesday.
“During the meeting, President Barzani and ambassador Gibbard spoke of a number of topics including the recent parliamentary elections in Kurdistan and the process of cabinet formation in Baghdad,” read a statement from Barzani’s office.
“President Barzani also took advantage of the opportunity to express his appreciation to the people and government of Canada for their support to the Kurdistan Region during the efforts to eradicate the terrorists of the Islamic State,” the statement added.
The Canadian embassy is yet to issue its own statement following the meeting.
On Tuesday, Gibbard met with newly elected Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad.
“Delighted to meet with President Salih to congratulate him, discuss expanding the role of women in the next government, and hear his views on the importance of economic reform and fighting corruption,” Gibbard said in an embassy tweet following their meeting.
Gibbard has 26 years of diplomatic experience, largely in south and central America.
Canada's last ambassador in Baghdad, Christopher Poole, left in December 1991. The country's ambassador to Jordan has been responsible for Iraq, remotely.
Canada is an active member of the global coalition against ISIS, with a focus on training Peshmerga and Iraqi soldiers. The Canadian military will take first command of NATO's training mission in Iraq.
Ottawa has committed more than $2 billion (CAD) for stabilization and development assistance in the Middle East, with Iraq a major recipient.
Women's issues are a focus of their humanitarian activities in the country.
Canada has also received more than 37,000 Iraqi refugees over the past 15 years, including 1,400 survivors of ISIS, many of whom are Yezidis.
And Canadian companies have interests in the oil and gas sectors of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
With Canada's increased military and development involvement in Iraq, the government said it needs to have a stronger diplomatic presence on the ground.
Several countries have recently returned embassies or increased their diplomatic missions in Iraq following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
Canada has an embassy trade office in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region.