Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dion: Canada Cannot Say 'Yes' to All Coalition Requests visa-vi ISIS

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:19AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 28, 2016 12:18PM EST

OTTAWA -- Canada will have to say no to some of the requests that its allies are making in the fight against Islamic extremists, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Thursday.

But the minister wouldn't say if some coalition members have asked Canada to keep its fighter jets in Iraq and Syria.

"We cannot say yes to everything," Dion said.

Dion was discussing Canada's future contribution to the mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at a major gathering of foreign affairs experts in Ottawa. He insisted the new Liberal contribution will be meaningful."When our plan will be out, it will not be all what our allies are asking us to do, but it will be pretty close of what they hope from us."

The Liberals plan to withdraw Canada's six CF-18 fighter jets from the US-led bombing coalition, which has sparked criticism from the Opposition Conservatives.

Dion will not say when the government will announce its new plan, but he says there would be no gap in Canada's contribution to the air war in the meantime.

"The plan is not out because the current plan is still there. There is no gap. We are still involved."

He also said he will travel to Rome next week for another major meeting of coalition partners.

Dion played down the fact that Canada was not invited to a recent coalition meeting led by the Americans. He such "ad hoc" meetings occur, but Canada is always fully briefed by the United States.

He said Canada is conducting two to three per cent of the coalition airstrikes and he said it is "doable" for the coalition to replace that contribution.

David Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Canadian warplanes may have been flying a relatively low percentage of bombing missions, but the contribution has been more meaningful than statistics would indicate.

"Canada's been flying a lot of the more difficult missions for quite some time and that will end."