It will be “almost impossible” for Iraq to return to how it was before recent sweeping gains by jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the prime minister of the Kurdistan region warned on Tuesday.
Nechirvan Barzani told the BBC it would be difficult to find a resolution with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in power and recommended an autonomous region for Sunnis as a potential solution.
ISIL militants launched their lightning offensive in Iraq’s second city Mosul a week ago.
In the latest fighting on Monday, Sunni militants took control of several neighbourhoods of Tal Afar, between the now rebel-held Mosul and the Syrian border.
Asked if Iraq was falling to pieces, Barzani said: “I don’t think so, it will, can stay together again.”
“Now we have to sit down and find a solution, find how to live together… but if we expect, if we think that Iraq will go back like before Mosul, I don’t think so, it’s almost impossible.”
He said a political rather than military solution was needed to the unrest, taking account of Sunnis’ feeling of being “neglected” by government policies.
Asked whether a solution was possible with Maliki in power, he said: “There is no trust right now we have to be honest… in my view it’s difficult.”
On possible autonomy for Sunni areas, he added: “We have to leave it to Sunni areas to decide it but I think this is the best model for them as well to do it. The best way is to have a Sunni region like what we have in Kurdistan.”
ISIL militants are said to have killed scores of Iraqi soldiers as they pushed towards the capital, a massacre that has drawn international condemnation and prompted diplomatic evacuations in Baghdad.