- ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI)
- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan signed a $2 billion deal Thursday
to bring natural gas from Central to South Asia. Starting from the Daulatabad
gas field in Turkmenistan, the nearly 1,000-mile pipeline is to pass through
Afghanistan before entering Pakistan. The $2 billion project will bring
Central Asian natural gas to a Pakistani port for export.
- The Pakistani towns of Gwadar and Karachi are the nearest
warm water ports for Central Asia's vast energy resources. Major oil companies
have shown interest in bringing Central Asian gas and oil to the Pakistani
ports ever since the collapse of the communist regime in Kabul in 1993.
- The U.S. oil company Exxon even signed a deal with the
regional governments for this purpose, but infighting and civil strife
in Afghanistan prevented it from being implemented.
- The collapse of Afghanistan's Taliban regime last November
and the presence of U.S. and international forces in the country have once
again revived hopes for the project. The Afghan government headed by Hamid
Karzai is backing the deal.
- On Thursday, Karzai, Pakistani President General Pervez
Musharraf, and Turkmenistan President Supermurat Niyazov signed the agreement
- Addressing a joint news conference after signing the
agreement, the three leaders said they hoped the deal would bring progress
and prosperity to the region.
- Niazov said his country had 23 trillion cubic feet of
gas reserves and was interested in using the Pakistani ports for exporting
its energy resources.
- Musharraf said on completion, the project would provide
the shortest route for the export of hydrocarbon resources from Central
Asia to the Far East, Japan and the West. He said construction of road
and rail links from Central Asia to Afghanistan and Pakistan would also
open opportunities and increase people-to-people contact and boost economic
- He said Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan would
form three working groups, each dealing with the gas pipeline, road and
rail links and trade and economic ties.
- Karzai used the occasion to appeal to Pakistan and India
to end their disputes peacefully and work together for the prosperity of
the entire region.
- Copyright 2002 by United Press International.