Pipeline Talks in Iran Resume without India

A03345826.jpgIran and Pakistan on Monday started a new round of talks over finalizing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project with Pakistan, but in the absence of Indian officials. Officials said India’s absence was linked to its lack of agreement on pricing terms with Pakistan for the so-called “Peace Pipeline”, which aims to usher in a new era of cooperation between the three countries.

“Iranian and Pakistani experts are going to finalize the terms of the agreement which will then be signed by the presidents of the two countries,” IRNA reported.

The negotiations are going ahead at “expert” level over the next days and on Thursday the deputy oil ministers of the two countries are to meet in Tehran to examine the results of the discussions.

Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari had warned last week Iran was prepared to sign with Pakistan alone if India did not speed up.

“If we believe that a serious delay has occurred with the Indians, we will go ahead with the Pakistanis,” he said.

India says that it has yet to resolve transit fee issues with Islamabad.

“There are crucial bilateral issues that need to be resolved first before we begin discussions on contractual issues on a trilateral platform,” Press Trust of India quoted Petroleum Ministry official as saying.

New Delhi and Islamabad are said to have reached a broad understanding on the transportation tariff payable to Pakistan for wheeling the gas through the 1,035-km pipeline segment in Pakistan, but the two nations have not yet arrived at any agreement on it.

“We have communicated to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry’s Special Representative H. Ghanimi Fard and Pakistan’s Petroleum Secretary Farrakh Qayyum that we will not be attending the trilateral meeting unless bilateral issues are resolved with Pakistan,” the Indian official said.

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