Wary of London terror threat, Boris Johnson arrives in Iraqi Kurdistan to see fight against Isis

Officials claim Johnson is keen to see first hand the efforts being made to combat the extremist group

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Indy Politics

It does, by any stretch of the imagination, seem like a decidedly odd destination for an official trip by the Mayor of London.

But then for a Mayor of London inexplicably keen to burnish his foreign policy credentials it begins to make a bit more sense.

Boris Johnson today unexpectedly turned up Kurdistan region of Iraq with the political editor of the Sun in tow to see the work being done to fight Islamic State militants in the region.

The Mayor’s officials claimed that Mr Johnson was keen to see at first hand the efforts being made to counter IS because of the terror threat extremists could pose to the capital.

He was also said to be talking to the Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, about boosting trade links.

But the trip will fuel speculation that the real reason for the visit is to promote Mr Johnson’s national political ambitions after he steps down as Mayor after the election.

Sources said Mr Johnson would meet some of the British soldiers training the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who have been on the frontline in the fight against IS, 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 said.

Mr Johnson himself told the Evening Standard that he believed there was also investment opportunities in the region.

“The Kurds are very, very pro-British. They see London as the natural centre for them in Europe.

“In an ideal world Erbil has the potential to be the financial capital of the region and we want to build partnerships.

“Clearly there is a great deal of uncertainty at the moment caused by Islamic State but there is also a great opportunity.”

Mr Johnson added that he had no concerns about his safety on the visit.

“I’m not worried. We researched it thoroughly and it’s got to be done. Erbil is, relatively speaking, safe.”

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 the Kurdish capital, 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".

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