April 5, 2012 / 10:41 AM / 8 years ago

Blasts temporarily halt Iraq oil flow to Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) - At least one explosion hit a Turkish oil pipeline early Thursday, sparking a blaze later extinguished by firefighters and temporarily cutting off the flow of crude from Kirkuk.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the blasts but sabotage is common on oil and gas pipelines into Turkey from Iran and Iraq, an area where Turkish Kurd separatist militants operate.

Fighting between the Turkish army and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has risen in recent months with Ankara resuming its policy of attempting to crush the 27-year-old insurgency by military means.

Turkish energy officials said one pipeline was stopped after a blast led to a large fire in the Idil area of Turkey’s Sirnak province, close to the border with Iraq.

Flow on a second pipe was also stopped several hours later for security reasons, the officials said.

There were three almost simultaneous explosions at separate points along the pipeline in the Idil area, a Turkish security official said.

“Firemen who were dispatched to the area managed to extinguish the fire,” an energy official said. “Inspections have started in order to begin repairs.”

A spokesman for Iraq’s Oil Ministry said crude flow had resumed from the Kirkuk oil fields to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Oil exports were not affected as there were reserves already at the port, a source at the Iraqi North Oil Company said.

Secret peace talks between Turkish officials and PKK leaders broke down last year and the government, a prominent newspaper columnist said last month, had decided it would no longer talk to the PKK or its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Turkish officials declined to confirm or deny the report, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said at the time: “This struggle will continue until the end”.

The PKK, whose leaders are based in remote mountains of northern Iraq, has also vowed no let-up in its fight for limited autonomy in the mainly Kurdish southeast. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Additional reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud in Baghdad, writing by Jonathon Burch; editing by James Jukwey and Jason Neely

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