Iran, Pakistan Inch Closer to Finalize IPI Gas Agreement

A01399794.jpgIran and Pakistan are close to finalizing a gas purchase agreement for the $7.4 billion IPI pipeline during technical talks in Islamabad, even as officials said India’s decision not to take part in the talks did not mean it had pulled out of the trilateral project. The three-day technical talks between senior Iranian and Pakistani officials will conclude on Thursday and will be followed by secretary-level talks tomorrow.

“After the technical-level talks, the secretary-level talks will also be held in Islamabad as the dialogue process between the two sides seems to be going in the right direction. And the gas sale-purchase agreement is expected to be signed after the secretary-level talks,” an unnamed official of Pakistan’s petroleum ministry was quoted as saying by “The Post”.

Shabbier Ahmed, the deputy secretary in the petroleum ministry, said, “The last unresolved subject of price review that was proposed by Iran three years ago is also under discussion.

“Hopefully, all the obstacles will be resolved during the final round of technical level talks between two countries today,” Ahmed said.

India’s decision not to participate in the talks here did not mean it had pulled out of the project, unnamed officials were quoted as saying by the Daily Times. They said Pakistan and India had “to settle issues concerning the agreement on their own terms.”

“It is a trilateral project and we are trying to advance it among the three countries,” a petroleum ministry official said.

India and Iran are expected to hold talks on a similar gas purchase agreement, The Post quoted an official in the petroleum ministry as saying.

“India may go for a separate agreement with Iran regarding the gas pipeline project,” he said.

The official also said India had contacted Pakistan to resolve the issue of gas transit and transportation fees that New Delhi will have to pay to Islamabad for Iranian gas sent to India via Pakistani territory. There is a strong possibility that Pakistan and India will soon hold a meeting to resolve the issue of the transit fee, he said.

Meanwhile, legal and technical experts from Iran and Pakistan are studying a draft of the gas sale contract to assess its feasibility.

The ongoing technical talks are a follow-up to discussions held in Tehran last month on the pipeline project.

The head of the National Gas Export Company, Nasrollah Seyfi, is leading the Iranian side at the talks, while the managing director of the petroleum ministry, Syed Hassan Nawab, is heading the Pakistani side.

Iranian representative Hojatollah Ghanimifard will arrive here today to participate in the secretary-level talks.

The pipeline will bring 60 million cubic meters of natural gas a day from Iran’s South Pars gas field over land to Pakistan.

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