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Romania would welcome Canadian help in minimizing gap in Mali: envoy

Canadian infantry and medical personnel disembark a Chinook helicopter as they take part in a medical evacuation demonstration on the United Nations base in Gao, Mali, on December 22, 2018. Romania's top diplomat in Canada says his country is trying to move as fast as possible to minimize a looming gap in the provision of lifesaving medical evacuations for injured UN peacekeepers and staff in Mali. But Bogdan Manoiu tells The Canadian Press that the Romanian military needs to upgrade its helicopters and train its aircrews before they can be deployed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — Romania’s top diplomat in Canada says his country is moving as fast as it can to minimize a looming gap in the provision of lifesaving medical evacuations for injured UN peacekeepers and staff in Mali after Canadians pull out.

But Bogdan Manoiu tells The Canadian Press that the Romanian military needs to upgrade its helicopters and train its aircrews before they can be deployed and that can’t be rushed.

Canada has eight helicopters and 250 military personnel in Mali, where they are scheduled to continue providing emergency evacuations to the UN until July 31.

But while their Romanian replacements aren’t due until mid-October, the Trudeau government has rebuffed requests for Canada to extend its mission to prevent a gap that the UN says will hurt its peacekeeping efforts there.

The House of Commons’ defence committee has recommended Canada look at ways to help Romania gets its peacekeepers to Mali faster, and Manoiu says his country would welcome any assistance.

While he admits that the gap is a concern, Manoiu says Romania respects Canada’s decision to leave at the end of July and has not asked it to stay longer.

The Canadian Press