Afghanistan and Pakistan want to revive gas pipeline project

Feb 12, 2002 01:00 AM

Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, said at a meeting the construction of a pipeline for Turkmenistani natural gas to South Asia would benefit both countries. As such, Karzai and Musharraf said, Kabul and Islamabad should work together to facilitate the construction of the pipeline.
They were speaking during Karzai's one-day visit to the Pakistani capital. The two leaders agreed to cooperate on various fronts and work to establish a closer relationship. The Afghan leader told after meeting with Musharraf that he viewed the gas pipeline project as an urgent priority. The pipeline will eventually benefit the entire region, he declared.

On the same day, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov indicated that he was more optimistic about the project now that the civil conflict in Afghanistan has quieted down. With peace established in Afghanistan, Niyazov said during a visit to eastern Turkmenistan, the pipeline can be built.
In the late 1990s, Unocal of the United States and Bridas of Argentina both made attempts to form consortia to build a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline. Turkmenistan chose Unocal to lead the project in the fall of 1997. The US company remained committed to the project over the next year, even as it fought off a lawsuit filed by Bridas, which claimed that Unocal had interfered with its business in Turkmenistan.

But the continuing war in Afghanistan, as well as protests in the United States over human rights abuses by the Taliban, made it impossible for the project to succeed. Unocal finally backed out of CentGas, the consortium set up to build the pipeline, in late 1998 after international financial institutions made clear that they would not help cover the cost of the project as long as Afghanistan was racked by armed conflict.
In the wake of the overthrow of the Taliban and the creation of a new government in Kabul, though, the project has once again come to light. Yet the continued volatility of circumstances in the region suggests that it may take several years of political stability before the project could be seriously revived.

Source: NewsBase
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