By Haydar Hadi
BAGHDAD (AA) - Arshad al-Salihi, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, has said Turkmen were being excluded from the political process by the central government in Baghdad.
At a press conference held following a Tuesday meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, al-Salihi asserted that national unity was "key" to sustaining Iraq’s federal structure.
He added that Iraqi Turkmen did not want to see the country divided, but warned that Iraq’s current political situation was pushing them in that direction.
"During my meeting with the prime minister in Baghdad, I got the understanding that he did not want Turkmen to be a part of the political process," al-Salihi said.
He went on to say that many local administrations in Iraq held similar views, prompting Turkmen party leaders and MPs to reconsider their longstanding positions.
In reference to problems faced by Turkmen in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, he said: "The provincial council and education directorate in Kirkuk were earmarked for Turkmen, but these -- along with the security organs -- were taken from us."
Turkmen, al-Salihi added, had asked the international community -- particularly Turkey -- to help guarantee their political future in Iraq.
Turkmen are a Turkic ethnic group based largely in Syria and Iraq, where they live alongside large Arab and Kurdish populations.
The greater Turkmen community, which includes both Sunni and Shia Muslims, shares close cultural and linguistic affinities with the Turkish people.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Mahmoud Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara.