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Turkish PM Urges Unity Among Iraqi Turkmen
By Ari Khalidi

During a two-day visit to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim urged unity to a Turkmen population divided by Sunni-Shia sectarian lines and shifting political allegiances.

In a meeting on Saturday in Baghdad with several prominent Turkmen leaders and politicians, Yildirim reiterated Turkey's support to his ethnic kins.

According to a press release on the Turkish Prime Ministry website, Yildirim stated Turkmens "would give no chance to those who try to ignite strife among themselves and between Turkmens and Turkey."

It was not clear who the Turkish PM was referring to.

Mostly Muslim by religious affiliation, the Turkmen of Iraq are split between the Shia and Sunni denominations; a situation which corresponds to allegiance with Iran and Turkey respectively.

"Turkmens are both our blood brothers and our brotherly ties with Iraq," Yildirim told his hosts.

Among them were the Chairman of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) Arshad al-Salihi and ITF lawmaker at the Kurdistan Region's Parliament Aydin Maruf who represents a minority constituency of Erbil.

The ITF and other nationalist movements, historically supported by Turkey, strive to overcome sectarian divisions in their communities in a bid to unite, as Shia's in Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, and Tal Afar remain closer to Iran particularly in the aftermath of the Islamic State (IS).

Yildirim said Turkey was "embracing all the Iraqi Turkmen" from the Nineveh town of Tal Afar in the north to Mandali on the border with Iran in the east.

"We will give all the necessary aid to build Iraqi population centers, including the Turkmen ones after getting rid of the [IS] calamity," said Yildirim.

Nationalist parties also demand an autonomous region for their people stretching from Diyala Province to Nineveh which they call Turkmeneli.

Smaller groups such as the Turkmen Development List, Turkmen Change, and Renewal are allied with the Kurdistan Region.

After the emergence of IS, a significant portion of Turkmen fought in the ranks of Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, a Shia militia group fiercely opposed by Turkey.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany.

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