Senior Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for dialog to resolve tensions between the central government in Baghdad and the country’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
After a meeting with KRG President Massoud Barzani on his first visit to the Kurdish region, Al-Sadr told a press conference in Arbil on Thursday that his visit was aimed at easing tensions between the regional and central governments.
"I came here to listen to their (Kurds') points of view (on issues related to Iraq's political situation). In fact, I advocate getting closer to the Iraqi people and protecting the Iraqi people before protecting our parties and blocs. All sides have to pay attention to the public interest and the Iraqi people," he said.
"The oil of Iraq is for the people and no one has the right to claim it for himself and exclude others… Dialogue is the only solution to end former and current political disputes and all other issues," he said, addressing the long-standing disputes between Baghdad and Arbil over political autonomy and oil rights.
Al-Sadr, who led a campaign against the US presence in Iraq before American forces withdrew from the country last December, has now an influential role in the government of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki.
Ties between Baghdad and Arbil were further strained when fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi fled to the region while KRG refused to hand him over to the central government.
Hashemi, who is now in Turkey, is accused of running a terror squad in Iraq.