ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr welcomed former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani on his "historic" visit to the city of Najaf, the last stop of the Kurdish leader's two-day trip to meet with top national political figures.
Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed a delegation of senior Kurdish officials to Baghdad, the first such visit since the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum held last year.
This is Barzani's second visit to Najaf since the establishment of the new Iraqi government following the fall of the former regime in 2003.
In the meeting, Sadr expressed his happiness at Barzani's trip, describing it as "historic," according to a statement by Barzani's press office.
Following his arrival in Baghdad on Thursday, the former Kurdish president met with, among others, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, and head of the al-Fatih coalition, Hadi al-Amiri.
On Friday, Barzani continued his outing in the capital, meeting separately with Iraqi Turkmen Front leader Arshad al-Salihi, former Prime Minister and current leader of Nasr (Victory) coalition Haider al-Abadi, Sunni leader Salih Mutlaq, and the head of al-Hikma (Wisdom) movement, Ammar al-Hakim.
The statement continued by saying that, according to Sadr, the various leaders viewed Barzani's visits as "an important beginning and a new positive direction for the political process of Iraq" which would help bring an end to "repeating [past] mistakes."
One topic was said to have dominated the discussion; the new Iraqi government and how its formation "has the potentiality to pave the way for a brighter future for all the components of the Iraqi state."
The two leaders also spoke about "relations between Baghdad and Erbil and how the new government can work on enhancing those relations for the mutual benefit of the people of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region."
Barzani's tour comes just over a year after the Kurdistan Region's bid for independence, which led to a strong backlash from the central government and a severe weakening of the relationship between the two.
Recently, the two governments have been working to address outstanding issues with some visible signs of improvement, especially after the selection of Abdul-Mahdi as Iraq's prime minister.
Editing by John J. Catherine