Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Wednesday met Iraq’s top Shia authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, the first such meeting for an Iranian head of state.
Rouhani sat down with Sistani at his residence on the last day of his visit to the neighboring country after paying a visit to the holy shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH) – the first Imam of Shia Muslims.
Rouhani briefed Sistani about his negotiations with Iraqi officials during his three-day trip to Iraq, a statement released by the top Iraqi cleric’s office said.
According to the statement, Grand Ayatollah Sistani welcomed “any step toward strengthening Iraq’s relations with its neighbors within the framework of mutual interests and based on respecting national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of each other.”
He also thanked “Iraq’s friends” for helping the country defeat the Daesh terror group.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Rouhani’s Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi and Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi were also present at the meeting.
Sistani is known as the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims. His fatwas have significantly contributed to shaping Iraq’s political structure in the wake of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s overthrow.
In June 2014, when Daesh unleashed its campaign in Iraq, Sistani called on his followers to rush to the military’s help in the fight against the terrorist outfit.
The fatwa helped bring together Shia fighters, Sunni tribesmen as well as Christian and Izadi volunteers under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to reverse Daesh’s gains and ultimately end the terror group’s territorial rule in Iraq in late 2017.
Rouhani visited the holy shrines of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam, and his half-brother Abbas ibn Ali (PBUH), in the holy city of Karbala on Tuesday.
Heading a high-ranking delegation, Rouhani began his official Iraq visit on Monday, which featured several meetings and the signing of memorandums of understanding for the expansion of bilateral ties in various fields.
In a joint statement, the two neighboring states hailed Rouhani's Iraq visit as a “turning point” in efforts to strengthen “strategic” cooperation based on non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
Press TV contributed to this story.