NATO holds emergency meeting at Turkey's request as regional violence spills over into threats against regional energy sector. Photo courtesy of NATO
ANKARA, Turkey, July 28 (UPI) -- Violence associated with militant groups operating in eastern Turkey left a natural gas pipeline from neighboring Iran out of service, the government said.
The government in eastern Agri province blamed the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, for an attack on the Turkey-Iran natural gas pipeline.
Violence tied to the PKK, which is fighting for more Kurdish autonomy in the region, has left more than 40,000 people dead since the 1980s. The group recently called off a 2013 cease-fire agreement and the Turkish government has accused it of collaborating with the terrorist movement calling itself the Islamic State.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz was quoted by the official Anadolu News Agency as saying the pipeline attack occurred less than 10 miles from the Iranian border.
"The explosion caused a fire; however in a short time we managed to extinguish it. After repairing it, the gas flow will resume," he said. "We have taken measures to meet the natural gas demand in the area. Turkish citizens and industrialists should be at ease."
Iran has looked to Turkey as a potential transit option to get its natural gas reserves to European countries. In the past, members of the European Union have expressed reluctance given the economic sanctions pressure on Iran.
Last year, Iran increased gas deliveries through Turkey and the combined potential from new reserves from Russia and Azerbaijan position the country as an important energy hub tying Central Asia to Europe and the Middle East.
Members of NATO held an emergency meeting Tuesday at the request of Turkey to address security concerns.
"The security of the alliance is indivisible, and we stand in strong solidarity with Turkey," NATO said in a statement. "We will continue to follow the developments on the South-Eastern border of NATO very closely."