Friday August 8th, 2008
"Attacks on economic interests have a deterring effect (on Turkey)…As long as the Turkish state insists on war, such acts will be naturally carried out," Bahoz Erdal, a commander of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, told the Firat news agency.
The PKK claimed responsibility for a blast Tuesday night at a section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline near Refahiye, in Erzincan province.
The explosion sparked a fire, which continued to burn Friday. The conduit, which supplies oil to Western markets, is expected to remain shut for about 15 days.
The PKK said the explosion was "an act of sabotage" by its militants, details of which would be revealed later, according to Firat.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, has sabotaged gas and oil pipelines in the past as part of its armed campaign for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Erdal said the pipeline blast and other PKK attacks in recent weeks were in response to an intensified Turkish crackdown against the rebels both inside Turkey and neighboring northern Iraq, where they take refuge.
Turkish military action "has required us to boost our resistance in self-defense," he told Firat.
The Turkish authorities have played down the possibility of a sabotage at the BTC pipeline, and the Anatolia news agency Friday quoted unnamed officials as saying that the PKK might be seeking publicity.
An official from Turkey’s state-run oil and gas company, BOTAS, said Thursday that no trace of a sabotage had been found but a definite conclusion could be reached only after the fire at the pipeline was extinguished.
The Refahiye’s sub-governor had earlier ruled out sabotage, saying a fault had been detected before the blast.
Inaugurated in 2006, the 1,774-kilometer BTC pipeline is the world’s second-longest.
It carries Azeri oil from the Caspian Sea fields, the world’s third-largest reserve, to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, from where tankers transport the crude oil to Western markets.
It was pumping about 1.2 million barrels of oil a day before the blast.