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Turkmenistan President due in Islamabad to sign gas line agreement


14:18, November 14, 2011

ISLAMABAD, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad later on Monday to sign bilateral agreement over the price of gas through the planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, officials said.

The 1,700-km pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.

Pakistan and Turkmenistan had signed the inter-governmental agreement to provide a regular supply of natural gas from the Turkmen gas fields to the industries in Pakistan during a visit to Turkmenistan by the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain said that Pakistan and Turkmenistan would "initial" the gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) during the Turkmen President's two-day visit.

He said the formal signing of the agreement would take some time because the transit fee for the pipeline in Afghanistan was not yet determined.

"Turkmenistan claims the transit fee (in Afghanistan) would be lower but we think it would be higher, so we have to take into account the transit fee risk factor before signing the formal agreement," he added.

He claimed that the financing for the TAPI pipeline project would not be a problem although the cost of the Pakistan segment was not yet clear because the project partners had not started the process for appointing a financial adviser for the structure.

The original project started in 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed.

There had been no progress on the project due to several reasons,mainly instability in Afghanistan as the pipeline would pass through southern Afghanistan, the former stronghold of Taliban. But Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told a news conference in Islamabad on Sunday that there would be substantial progress on the project during the visit of Turkmen President to Islamabad.

Turkmenistan has the world's fourth largest proven reserves of gas and would pump in around 33 billion cubic meters per annum through the 1,640-km-long gas pipeline including 735 kilometers across Afghanistan and some 800 kilometers through Pakistan before culminating in India.

Officials said that Pakistani and Turkmen Presidents will also hold talks on bilateral and regional matters, focusing on promotion of economic ties and peace and security.

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