Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan
Sign Pipeline Deal


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 in Islamabad.
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 activity.
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.


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