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Iran-Turkey gas exports halted after pipeline explosion near border

Iranian official says blast in eastern Turkey a 'terrorist' attack, while Turkish media says cause is so far unknown
The pipeline carries around 10 billion cubic metres of Iranian gas to Turkey annually (AFP)

Natural gas exports from Iran to Turkey were halted early on Tuesday after an explosion and fire at a pipeline just inside the Turkish border, an official at Turkey's energy ministry has said.

The official said that "all necessary efforts" were underway to manage the situation, but that currently it was unclear when the line would re-open.

Turkey's state news agency Anadolu said the explosion occurred near the Gurbulak border gate with Iran, in Agri province.

Turkish broadcaster TRT Haber said the cause of the explosion was unknown.

"The gas flow on the natural gas pipeline was cut and the fire that had started was extinguished by fire squads," it said. The report added that security forces are investigating the incident.

An Iranian official told state TV that the explosion had been caused by "terrorists".

"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 the National Iranian Gas Company.

"The pipeline has exploded several times in the past. It is also likely that the PKK group has carried out the blast," he told Iran's state news agency IRNA, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party.

The pipeline, which carries around 10 billion cubic metres of Iranian gas to Turkey annually, was frequently attacked by Kurdish fighters through the 1990s up until 2013, when a ceasefire was established.

Jamshidi said that because of the new coronavirus outbreak, "the Turkish border guards have left, but we have informed them of the explosion and are waiting for their response," IRNA reported.

"It takes usually three to four days to repair and resume gas exports."