During a meeting in Erbil with Massoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, Gates said Kurdish leaders should use the remaining time the United States has in Iraq to enlist U.S. assistance to broker a settlement, The New York Times reported.
Gates told Barzani, "(We) both have sacrificed too much in blood and treasure to see the gains of the last few years lost," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell relayed in providing a readout of the meeting.
Iraqi and U.S. leaders have expressed alarm in recent weeks as Kurdish leaders pressed ahead with a new constitution claiming territory and oil and gas rights that are disputed by Iraq's central government in Baghdad. The differences were supposed to have been resolved in U.N-sponsored talks in June, but the Kurdish parliament passed the constitution.
Gates expressed similar sentiments when he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Tuesday, Morrell said.
U.S. combat troops are on a timetable to exit Iraq in 2011.