Kerry talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad

Updated: 2013-03-25 09:15


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Kerry talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad March 24, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

BAGHDAD - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday arrived in Baghdad on unannounced visit for talks with Iraqi leaders over regional issues, the Iraqi government and media reports said.

A statement issued by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said that Maliki received Kerry and the two sides discussed bilateral relations as well as the regional issues of common interest, particularly the Syrian issue.

"The views of both sides were close and they stressed on the need to find a political solution to the situation in Syria to spare further tragedies to its people," the statement said without giving further details.

"There is significant correlation between the problems in the region, and any state cannot isolate itself from what is happening around it because of the overlapping of problems in the region," the statement added.

According to media reports, Kerry's visit was to urge the Iraqi leaders to ban Iranian flights over the Iraqi territory carrying arms and fighters for the Syrian government.

The United States frequently accused Iraq of turning a blind eye to the Iranian flights to Syria, which Iran insists only carry humanitarian aid.

Media reports said that the Iranian flights over Iraq to Syria are "close to daily", and that Iraq, which has vowed to inspect the flights, has only checked two planes.

The reports also alleged that Kerry was to tell Maliki that Iraq cannot be part of the political discussions over Syria's future until it halts the Iranian shipments to Syria.

Kerry is expected to meet with the parliament Speaker Osama al- Nujaifi, a Sunni, whose community has been protesting Maliki's Shiite-led government for about three months for being marginalized and discriminated against.

Kerry also plans to speak by telephone with head of the Kurdish regional government Massoud Barzani in Arbil, some 400 km north of Baghdad, to encourage the Kurds to engage in political talks with the central government to resolve their pending issues.

Kerry flew to Iraq from the Jordanian capital of Amman as he was accompanying US President Barack Obama's tour in the region.