Turkmenistan keen to further discuss gas piping project to Pakistan

Jul 31, 2000 02:00 AM

The government of Turkmenistan is keen to move ahead with discussions on a project to pipe gas to Pakistan. Ashgabat is reportedly pushing for the earliest possible conclusion to negotiations on the project now that its plans to sell gas to Turkey have been called into question.
The Turkmenistanis had hoped to send natural gas to Turkey via the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP), which was designed to pass across the Caspian Sea and through the southern Caucasus to eastern Turkey. However, the US-led group that was set up to build the pipeline has all but abandoned the effort, and it will probably be difficult for the group's partner -- Shell -- to secure Turkmenistani President Saparmurad Niyazov's approval for its own plans.
As such, Ashgabat is investigating other options. The former Soviet republic may have a hard time pursuing the Pakistani option, however. The press sources in Karachi noted that the memorandum of understanding signed by the Pakistani and Turkmenistani governments has expired. Turkmenistan must also decide whether it wants to try to build a pipeline to South Asia via Afghanistan.

Ashgabat and Islamabad began discussing plans for the construction of a high-capacity pipeline from the Dauletabad gas field to the Arabian Sea port of Multan via Afghanistan several years ago. Unocal, a US oil company, agreed to build the pipeline and was appointed to head the CentGas consortium of companies involved in the project. However, Unocal said in late 1998 that it was abandoning the effort.
International financial institutions have refused to make money available for the project, pointing out that the 1,500 km pipeline can hardly be built unless the Taleban and the various other factions fighting for supremacy in Afghanistan implement a peace settlement. Pakistani and Turkmenistani officials have pledged to continue with the project, but most industry experts are pessimistic. Islamabad and Ashgabat have not even been able to find another company willing to assume Unocal's place as head of the CentGas consortium.

Source: NewsBase
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