x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Iraq cleric Moqtada Al Sadr meets with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

Mr Al Sadr's visit comes two weeks after the influential Shiite cleric met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, and is the latest in a series of high-level meetings between Iraq and Arab Gulf countries

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, receives Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr before a meeting at Al Shati Palace on August 13, 2017. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, receives Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr before a meeting at Al Shati Palace on August 13, 2017. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday in his second visit to an Arab Gulf country in two months.

Mr Al Sadr met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, at Al Shati palace in the capital.

Also present were Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ali Mohamed Hammad Al Shamsi, Deputy Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council, and Mohammed Al Mazrouei, Undersecretary of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.

Mr Al Sadr's visit comes two weeks after the influential Shiite cleric met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, and is the latest in a series of high-level meetings between Iraq and Arab Gulf countries.

Mr Al Sadr announced his visit to Abu Dhabi on his website earlier on Sunday.

Read more: With an eye on Iran, US welcomes Moqtada Al Sadr visit to Saudi Arabia

The cleric is one of the few Iraqi Shiite leaders to keep some distance from Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival and the main backer of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. In April, Mr Al Sadr called on Mr Al Assad to "take a historic heroic decision" and step down, to spare his country further bloodshed.

Mr Al Sadr's office said his meetings with the Saudi crown prince resulted in an agreement to study possible investments in Shiite regions of southern Iraq. Saudi Arabia will also consider the possibility of opening a consulate in Iraq's holy Shiite city of Najaf, he said.

The cleric also announced a Saudi decision to donate US$10 million (Dh36.7m) to help Iraqis displaced by the war on ISIL in Iraq, to be paid to the Iraqi government.

Baghdad and Riyadh had announced in June they would set up a co-ordination council to upgrade ties, as part of an attempt to heal troubled relations.

Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 following a 25-year break, and Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir made a rare visit to Baghdad in February.

* Additional reporting from Reuters