ANKARA (AP) – An Iranian diplomat yesterday defended an agreement with Turkey to ship natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to European markets and called on the United States not to meddle in the region’s affairs. Turkey and Iran last week agreed on a preliminary deal to build two separate pipelines to ship natural gas from the fields in Iran and neighboring Turkmenistan via Turkish territory. The United States – a close ally of Turkey – on Monday criticized the timing of the deal and said Iran was not a reliable partner. Washington, which fears Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a threat to peace, wants to isolate Iran internationally. «The agreement is not only to the benefit of Iran and Turkey, it is to the benefit of regional countries also,» Ahmad Noorani, the diplomat, told reporters in Ankara. «European nations will also reap the benefits of this agreement.» Asked to comment on US objections, Noorani said, «This country’s policies in the region are not positive or constructive.» «It is the people of the region that are shaping their own future. If the US is disturbed by the cooperation it should revise its own policies,» Noorani said. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also defended the deal saying it would contribute to European energy security. European nations are aiming to diversify energy supplies to reduce dependence on Russia. In a daily press briefing on Monday, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: «Do we think it is the right moment to be making investments in the Iranian oil and gas sector? No, we don’t think so.» A Turkish Energy Ministry official said Turkey had reached a preliminary agreement to build some 3,500 kilometers of gas pipelines and transport up to 40 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, through Turkey.