The gas flow between Iran and Turkey has been shut down after an explosion on a natural gas pipeline in the Turkish province of Agri. The country’s energy minister has suggested that Kurdish rebels were to blame.
The fire, which began Monday in Turkey’s eastern Agri province was quickly brought under control, Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz said on Tuesday.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion but Turkish media was quick to blame the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which has been known to attack pipelines in incidents similar in the past, as part of its armed campaign for autonomy and greater rights for Kurds.
The suspected PKK attack on Monday came amid a sudden increase in violence in Turkey in recent days. On Friday, Ankara launched air raids on ‘Islamic State’ (IS) positions in Syria after an alleged IS suicide bomber killed 32 people close to the Turkish-Syrian border.
Criticism for raids against PKK
Turkey’s Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) said on Monday, however, that Turkish fighter jets and ground forces have also hit PKK camps in northern Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish YPG in northern Syria – despite the organization’s cooperating with the US to combat IS. Ankara has denied that the government was intentionally targeting Kurds.
Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds has received international criticism this week, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir urging Ankara to maintain peace talks with the rebels.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu promised on Monday, however, that he would press on with military operations against the PKK until the group disarmed.
Extraordinary session with NATO
NATO ambassadors were also due on Tuesday to meet for an extraordinary session overTurkey’s security concerns.
Ankara was expected to brief allies on measures it was taking but, according to sources with knowledge of the preparations for the meeting, it was not expected to request any air or troop support.
Anti-IS offensive welcomed by France
During a telephone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande reportedly praised Turkey’s “powerful effort” in the fight against IS.
Ankara had previously being reluctant to join the US-led coalition to combat the jihadis, but has made somewhat of a diplomatic U-turn since Friday’s suicide bomb, also allowing the US to use its Incirlik airbase.
ksb/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)