ERBIL, Iraq -- Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here in the country’s autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday morning, returning to Iraq for the second day in a row as he attempts to spur the creation of a multi-sectarian government that can respond to the Sunni militants capturing large swaths of the country.
After landing on a C-17 military aircraft into a city filled with high-rise buildings under construction, Kerry met for about an hour with senior Kurdish officials, including President Massoud Barzani, to discuss the challenges around forming a central government.
The trip to Erbil -- in a northern mountainous region that is the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- comes a day after Kerry held a series of meetings in Baghdad with Sunni and Shiite leaders. During that visit he won assurances from Iraqi leaders that they would begin forming a new government by July 1, as required by the constitution.
But deep sectarian divisions remain, and Kerry’s efforts could become complicated by the strengthened position of the Kurds. Right now they remain in an autonomous region that is still part of the Iraq government and represents about 20 percent of the country’s population. But they have long feuded with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and Barzani has called for his ouster.
“As everybody knows this is a very critical time for Iraq and the government formation challenge is the central challenge that we face,” Kerry said at the start of his meeting with the Kurdish president inside a palace compound, with stained glass windows and heaps of flowers.
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