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Kerry makes unannounced visit to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region

Published on Jun 24, 2014 2:54 PM
US Secretary of State John Kerry (centre, right) talking with Mr Fuad Hussein (centre, left), chief of staff at the presidency of the Kurdistan Regional Government, while accompanied by Kurdish regional foreign relations minister Falah Mustafa Bakir (far right) and other officials, at Arbil International Airport on Tuesday. Mr Kerry was in Iraqi Kurdistan on Tuesday to urge its leaders not to withdraw from the political process in Baghdad after their forces took control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk. Peshmerga fighters, the security forces of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish north, seized control of Kirkuk on June 12 after the Iraqi military fled in the face of an onslaught from Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. PHOTO: REUTERS

ARBIL (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday as part of an urgent diplomatic drive to stop the fractious country tearing apart.

A day after meeting Iraqi Arab leaders in Baghdad to discuss a lightning assault by Sunni militants, the top US diplomat landed in Arbil to urge Iraqi Kurdistan's president, Mr Massud Barzani, to work to uphold Iraq's cohesion.

Mr Kerry would highlight "the important role that the Kurds can play in helping the central government address... challenges for the benefit of all Iraqis," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The militant offensive has cleared the way for Iraqi Kurds - who were once gassed by former dictator Saddam Hussein - to take control of a swathe of disputed territory they want to incorporate into their autonomous region over Baghdad's strong objections.

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