Turkish Energy Minister to Visit Iran

A0378649.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Turkey’s energy minister on Monday announced plans to visit Tehran to discuss investment in gas fields and a pipeline project in a rebuff to the United States, which opposes energy deals with Iran.

Washington said a new energy deal between Iran and Turkey would send the wrong message while the West threatens economic sanctions against Tehran because of its refusal to give up right of uranium enrichment.

But Ankara’s energy minister insisted that Turkey needs natural gas and has to “protect its own interests.”

“I will travel to Iran within 15 days,” Hilmi Guler told a news conference. “Convincing the United States is out of the question, we’re an independent country.”

Guler said Iran would respond on Thursday to Turkish plans to invest in Iran’s South Pars gas fields, which is opposed by the United States.

“The security of our energy supply is above everything,” Guler said. “We have to make investments in that regard.”

Ahmad Noorani, an official at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara, confirmed the visit but said no date had been fixed yet.

Washington also opposes the planned construction of a pipeline between the two countries that could channel Iranian gas to European markets via Turkey.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Turkey last week and the two countries stressed their determination to cooperate on energy issues. The two countries, however, failed to seal a pipeline deal.

Turkey already receives gas through an existing pipeline from Iran. The proposed pipeline could have an annual capacity of 40 billion cubic meters (1,412 billion cubic feet) and possibly be connected to a network of US-backed pipelines carrying natural gas to Europe through Turkey, energy officials say.

Relations between the two countries have improved in recent years.

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