POLITICS

Boris Johnson Visits Iraq To See Fight Against Islamic State

22/01/2015 16:22 GMT | Updated 22/01/2015 20:59 GMT
REX Features

Boris Johnson has visited northern Iraq to see the work being done to tackle Islamic State terrorists. The London mayor made the surprise visit to the Kurdistan region on Thursday to see first hand the efforts being made to counter the extremists who could pose a threat to the British capital following recent events in Paris.

According to the Press Association, Johnson will meet British soldiers currently training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who have been locked in a battle with Islamic State forces, also known as Isil.

"He wants to see first hand the work being done to keep Isil at bay, the same Isil that wants to send back terrorists who would blow themselves up in London given half a chance," a source told PA.

"I'm also going to support some of our guys out there who are trying to train the Peshmerga fighters, so we will see first hand some of the good Britain is doing in the area," Johnson told the Evening Standard before the trip.

The mayor will also use the short trip, which was made at the invitation of Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, to boost trade links. Johnson said: "Over the last decade Kurdistan region has seen considerable economic growth and social development, and I'm here to mark London's role as an active ally in this.

"We have a mutual interest in not only Kurdistan region's security and prosperity but that of Iraq as a whole. The links between Britain and the Kurdistan region are developing at an incredible pace, there is a dynamic and forward looking leadership here and I am looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and discussing greater cooperation on a range of issues."

The mayor was accompanied on the visit by the British consul general to Kurdistan Angus McKee and Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was born to Kurdish parents in Iraq and retains close links with the region.

He visited the airport in the region's capital Irbil to see the work of the British companies involved in building and running it and was briefed on the airport management's desire to secure the first ever direct flights to London from the city, which would provide a significant boost to trade between the UK and Kurdistan region.

Earlier this week the Foreign Office was urged by MPs to strengthen diplomatic ties with Iraq's Kurds. The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said the Kurdistan region in Iraq was a "beacon of tolerance and moderation" in a part of the world beset by extremism and instability.

But while the regional government in Irbil was anxious to develop links with the UK, the committee warned that the current level of diplomatic resources committed to the region was "not adequate".