1021 GMT January 17, 2019
The Prime Minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani is scheduled to arrive in Tehran tomorrow on a two-day visit to hold talks with Iranian officials.
Barzani will sit with Iranian president, parliament speaker and secretary of the supreme national security council of Iran, according to a Saturday statement released by the Iranian Consulate in Erbil, which considers the trip “very important.”
In his meeting with the Iranian officials, Barzani will discuss closer ties in various political, cultural, security and economic areas.
The KRG premier will be accompanied by a delegation including Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani in his first visit to Iran since the KRG held a controversial secession referendum in September 2017.
On September 25 people in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq voted in a referendum amid rising tensions and international opposition.
The referendum set off a chain of events, culminating in a military confrontation between Erbil and Baghdad.
Iraqi government forces launched a major operation in Kirkuk on October 16 and took control of its oil fields and a strategic military base without any armed clashes.
The KRG says it respects a federal court in Baghdad which ruled the referendum unconstitutional.
Iran was among the neighboring countries which opposed the referendum.
Following the referendum, at the request of Baghdad, Iran closed its borders with Kurdistan. However, Tehran reopened the border crossings in January.
Before leaving for Tehran, Barzani met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Saturday.
Abadi stressed that “International borders must be under Federal Authority since it is within the exclusive powers of the Federal Authority,” a statement from his office said.
It is important that the oil produced in the Kurdistan region be “handed over” to the Iraqi government so that it exports it through the Iraqi oil marketing company (SOMO), the statement added.