Rumors claiming that Iran's halting of its natural gas flow to Turkey on Sunday, citing technical reasons, was a reaction to the possibility of the installation of a missile shield in Turkey as a part of a US-sponsored NATO plan have been rejected by the Energy Ministry. Experts also argue that these rumors are far from reality.
On Tuesday, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız said the halt was planned in advance and is scheduled to last only 12 days. Answering questions from reporters after attending a meeting for the launch of the "H2 Eco Caravan Project," developed for the promotion of hydrogen energy by the International Center for Hydrogen Energy Technologies (ICHET) and the Auto Natural Gas Stations Association (ODİDER) in Ankara, Yıldız said the halt of the gas flow is only temporary and will not have any adverse consequences for Turkey's natural gas market. The Russian Federation would gladly increase the quantity of gas to Turkey in the case of urgent necessity, the minister noted and went on: "We are importing natural gas from Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan and Nigeria. We don't have any problem as to the supply of gas."
The president of the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), Sedat Laçiner, also believes Iran's explanation is more plausible than the possibility of a reaction to the missile shield plan.
Gas flows from the eastern neighbor have halted twice recently: first on July 21 when gas exports stopped for 10 days due to an explosion and second after an explosion on Aug. 24. Iran was only able to resume gas transfer on Sept. 25. No explanation was given for the cause of either blast.
Terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) have in the past claimed responsibility for attacks on oil pipelines from Iraq and Azerbaijan.
Iran is Turkey's second-biggest supplier of natural gas after Russia, providing 10 billion cubic meters of gas each year.
Speaking to Today's Zaman, Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal said Turkey's stance is very clear on the missile shield issue and the possibility of damaging commercial relations with Iran is quite low.
"The missile shield is only spoken about in principle for the moment, without proceeding with the details, and our position is precisely set on this issue," he noted.
Laçiner said it would be to Iran's detriment to stop gas flow to Turkey. "With their channels for conducting business rapidly contracting due to UN sanctions, it would be ridiculous to take such a step. And I am sure they haven't," he told Today's Zaman.