By Rebecca Shabad - 06/23/14 12:45 PM EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that Iraq’s prime minister has promised to begin the process of forming a new national government in Baghdad by July 1.
Kerry met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for nearly two hours on Monday in Baghdad after flying into Iraq on an unannounced trip from Egypt. He also met with other top Shiite and Kurdish leaders.
"The goal of today was to get clarity," Kerry told reporters, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki] firmly, and on multiple occasions … affirmed his commitment to July 1 when the Parliament will convene."
"This is clearly a moment when the stakes for Iraq's future couldn't be higher," Kerry said at a press conference. "ISIS is not fighting, as it claims, on behalf of Sunnis. ISIS is fighting to divide Iraq. ISIS is fighting to destroy Iraq,"
Kerry echoed President Obama's comments that the U.S. cannot choose Iraq’s leader. Many lawmakers and other administration officials, however, have made it clear that they see al-Maliki as a roadblock to a more cohesive government.
In meetings with other Iraqi leaders, Kerry expressed the Obama administration's commitment to assisting Iraq in stopping ISIS’s momentum.
Kerry asserted that Obama has the authority to launch airstrikes against ISIS.
"President Obama has not declared that he will wait," Kerry said.
Kerry is scheduled to visit Amman, Jordan; Brussels and Paris this week to coordinate an international response to ISIS’s rise.
Many are concerned Jordan is one country the group could infiltrate as well as Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. will send light arms, ammunition, aerial munitions to western Iraq in the coming days, officials said, according to the Journal. The Pentagon is also in the process of establishing "fusion centers" to help Iraqi Security Forces. Obama announced last week he is dispatching 300 military advisers to Iraq to participate in that effort.