(CNN) -- Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani is willing to participate in the formation of a new government in Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
On Monday, Barzani told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he would press the issue of Kurdish independence with Kerry when the U.S. official visited Irbil, saying, "The Kurdish people should seize the opportunity now."
Kurds have complained that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has marginalized them, a feeling shared by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.
In his interview with CNN, Kerry said Iraqi leaders he has spoken with have "realized they cannot continue with this sectarian division" -- a realization that would presumably include a greater role for Kurds in governance.
"Words are cheap. I'm not taking anything I hear to the bank and saying, 'Wow, it's going to be solved,' " Kerry said.
"But I'm hearing things that indicate to me that if they follow through on the things they're saying, there's a capacity to have a new government that could be a unity government, that could reflect a greater capacity for success."
'We are facing a new reality,' Iraqi Kurdish leader says
The United States has sent military advisers to counsel Iraqi commanders on how best to take the fight to militants trying to create an Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.
U.S. officials also have promised what Kerry said Monday would be "sustained" and "intense" aid.