BERLIN, Aug 17 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned against the formation of an independent Kurdish state, saying this would risk further destabilising the region.
The Kurds have used sectarian chaos in Iraq to expand their autonomous territory to include Kirkuk, which sits on vast oil deposits that could make the independent state many dream of in Iraq's mountainous north, and beyond, more viable.
Kurds are considered the largest ethnic group without a state, with more than half of them living in Turkey.
"An independent Kurdish state would further destabilise the region and create new tensions, possibly also with the states neighbouring Iraq," Steinmeier said in an interview with Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper published on Sunday.
"That's why I hope that Iraq's state unity will be preserved."
Proclaiming a caliphate straddling parts of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State militants have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes.
Steinmeier said he was convinced Iraq would be able to stop the militants' advance as long as politicians in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional capital Arbil mobilised all forces and got support from the international community.
Steinmeier, who met Iraq's new Shi'ite prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, in Baghdad on Saturday, said the formation of a new government that all regions and religions could also identify with "is perhaps the last chance for cohesion in Iraq".
The European Union has allowed individual EU governments to supply arms and ammunition to Iraqi Kurds, provided they have the consent of authorities in Baghdad. Washington is already supplying weapons.
Asked about possible German deliveries, Steinmeier said: "We're not ruling anything out - we're looking at what's possible and doing what is necessary as quickly as possible."
Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, reiterated his call for weapons from Germany and other Western countries in an interview with Bild am Sonntag.
"We're still waiting for more effective weapons not only from the United States but also from other friends and allies, including Germany," he said, adding the Kurds did not need foreign troops but any training support would be welcome.
Germany has shied away from direct involvement in military conflicts for much of the post-war era due to its Nazi past but German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said while the situation posed a dilemma for Germany, it could not simply look on as a "genocide" took place. (Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Alison Williams)