Iran-Turkey gas tap closes after 'terror' attack on pipeline
"This morning, terrorists attacked a natural gas pipeline inside Turkey near Iran's Bazargan border with Turkey ... flow of gas has been halted," said Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana, director of National Iranian Gas Co. on Tuesday.
"The pipeline has exploded several times in the past. It is also likely that the PKK group has carried out the blast," the official told Iran's state news agency IRNA, referring to the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers Party.
Reports confirmed plumes of smoke were seen rising from the scene as security forces attempted to respond to the attack.
Jamshidi-Dana confirmed Turkish border guards had left the area as a precautionary measure due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
"We have informed them of the explosion and are waiting for their response”, he said, according to IRNA.
"It takes usually three to four days to repair and resume gas exports.”
Turkey's official news agency Anadolu confirmed the launch of investigation to decipher the cause of the explosion.
Turkey has battled the PKK for decades, while the Iranian security forces have also fought its affiliate, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Both groups have rear bases in neighbouring Iraq.
The vital pipeline carries some 10 billion cubic metres of Iranian gas to Turkey every year.
The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, and says it aims to reduce Tehran's energy sales to zero.
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed Ankara would continue to purchase oil and natural gas from Iran despite the sanctions.
"It is impossible for us to cancel relations with Iran with regards to oil and natural gas. We will continue to buy our natural gas from there," Erdogan told Turkish reporters before leaving New York where he was attending the UN General Assembly in September.
Despite this vow, Erdogan admitted Turkey faced difficulty in purchasing oil since the private sector "pulled back because of US threats", NTV broadcaster reported.
"But on this issue especially and many other issues, we will continue our relations with Iran," he promised, adding that Ankara still sought to increase trade volume with Tehran.