07/11/2011 08:17 EDT | Updated 09/10/2011 05:12 EDT

Canadian Forces Get New Staging Base In Kuwait To Support Afghan Mission: Defence Minister Peter MacKay


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- OTTAWA - Just months after the Canadian military was forced out of the United Arab Emirates, Ottawa has secured a new base in the Persian Gulf to support its operations in Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the deal on Monday after signing a memorandum of understanding with the government of Kuwait.

MacKay, who is in Kuwait for a two-day visit, said the agreement will provide the Canadian Forces with a transit base.

"The movement of equipment and vehicles from Afghanistan requires access to both an airport and sea terminal for the transshipment of materiel back to Canada," MacKay said in a news release.

"The establishment of this support presence in Kuwait allows this to happen in a safe and controlled environment."

Relations between Canada and the U.A.E. hit an all-time low last fall after Ottawa refused to grant more landing rights to two U.A.E. airlines _ Emirates Airlines and Ethiad Airways _ saying it did so to protect Canadian jobs.

In retaliation, the U.A.E. abruptly ended an agreement that allowed the Canadian Forces to use a military transportation hub near Dubai, known as Camp Mirage. It also imposed new visa requirements which cost Canadians between $250 to $1000.

The camp was a critical logistics and supply point for Canada's mission in Afghanistan, and its loss threatened to complicate the military withdrawal that's currently underway.

At the time, a number of countries were rumoured as possible alternate bases, including Pakistan and Cyprus. But the government declined to confirm, other than to say that there would be "a seamless transition between Camp Mirage and the alternate base."

Kuwait is an influential partner in the region and we are very pleased that this agreement has been reached for the benefit our respective countries, MacKay said on Monday.

"Canada proudly deployed over 4,000 Canadian Forces personnel to the campaign to liberate Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War and our friendship has grown stronger over the past twenty years."