TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani hailed Tehran-Erbil relations as “close and brotherly” and said the Islamic Republic has a strategy to back the existence of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.

“We have had and will have a close and brotherly relationship with our Kurdish brothers and the security of the (Kurdistan) region is of high importance to us,” Larijani said in a meeting with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Tehran on Sunday.

“We have a strategic relationship with you and want to preserve it,” he said, adding that the ties are valuable and should not be harmed by strategic mistakes.

Larijani further pointed to the controversial independence referendum held by the KRG and said the recent developments in the Iraqi Kurdistan were not in the interest of “the Kurdish brothers” and they should be resolved through prudence and support of the central government in Iraq.

Barzani, for his part, referred to his trip to Baghdad and said he participated in several meetings with the central government officials in which ways for dialogue between the KRG and the central government were opened.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, the Kurdish prime minister arrived in Tehran on Sunday in his first visit to Iran since the KRG held the controversial referendum.

People in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq voted for independence on September 25 amid rising tensions and international opposition.

The referendum set off a chain of events, culminating in a military confrontation between Erbil and Baghdad.

The 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.

Analysts believe that the decision to hold the referendum in the face of near-universal condemnation was a colossal miscalculation, saying the former president of the KRG, Masoud Barzani, has undermined his legitimacy.

In October, the KRG announced it was prepared to freeze the results of the referendum.