UPDATE 2-Turkey says Syria halts power imports, network damaged

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KAYSERI, Turkey, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Syria had stopped electricity imports from Turkey while it repairs its power network and there is no political reason for the interruption of the supplies, which last year met a fifth of Syrian needs, Turkish officials said.

Turkey, a strong critic of the Syrian government's 19-month-old crackdown on a popular uprising, has said it will not cut power and water to its southern neighbour as this could worsen a humanitarian crisis that has created more than 300,000 refugees.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Thursday Syria had decided to stop buying electricity from Turkey last week and that its neighbour could resume purchases of power when it was able.

Yasar Arslan, chief executive of Aksa Natural Gas, said his company's contract with Syria remained in effect and he expected power transmission to start again this month after the repair of the Syrian network was completed.

It was not immediately clear what problems had hit the network. Media reports said the Syrian power grid has been severely damaged in the conflict between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels.

NATO member Turkey was once an ally of Assad but turned against him after his violent response to an uprising in which, according to the United Nations, more than 30,000 people have died.


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Turkey has massed troops along its 900-km (560 mile) long-border in the past week after gunfire and shells from northern Syria hit Turkish territory, prompting it to respond in kind.

"If Syria wants to start buying again, this door is open. There is no problem in Turkey's supply and production," Yildiz said.

Turkey sold 1,170.6 gigawatt hours of electricity to Syria in 2011, according to the state transmission company, or about 20 percent of Syria's needs.

In a filing with the stock exchange, the parent company of Aksa Natural Gas, Aksa Enerji , said it had signed a new contract to give Syria access to 500 megawatts of capacity after concluding a previous agreement of 500 megawatts.

(Reporting by Evrim Ergin; Writing by Seltem Iyigun; Editing by Patrick Graham)

((nicholas.tattersall@thomsonreuters.com)(Reuters Messaging: nicholas.tattersall.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))