ISLAMABAD: While admitting its failure to complete Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project on time, Pakistan on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the visiting Iranian minister to complete the project in two phases.

“Pakistan has been unable to complete the projects on its side due to international sanctions on Iran,” said Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi here at the sidelines of the 19th session of the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC).

Mr Abbasi informed the visiting Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance, Dr. Ali Taieb Nia that despite Pakistan’s best efforts banks, international contractors and equipment suppliers were not ready to be involved in this project.

The minister was accompanied, among others, by the governor general of Sistan and the Ambassador of Iran to Pakistan.

“We are now planning to complete this project in two steps. First, we are installing LNG terminal at Gawadar Port and secondly, a 42-inch pipeline of 700km length will be laid from Gawadar to Nawabshah for onward transmission of gas to the northern parts of the country,” Mr Abbasi said.

The minister informed the visiting delegation that Pakistan is in talks with Chinese companies for construction of this pipeline and the 70km portion of the pipeline from Gawadar to Iran border will be completed by Pakistani companies.

He hoped that this project will start in the near future. There is hardly any trade in oil between Pakistan and Iran, the minister said, adding Pakistan wanted to increase trade substantially after the sanction issue was closed.

Dr Ali Taieb Nia has said that Iran has already completed its part of the gas project and hoped Pakistan will fulfill its commitment to complete its part of the project.

He expressed his desire the Iranian gas should flow into Pakistan soon so that Pakistan may be able to overcome its energy shortfall.

Dr Ali informed that Iran’s negotiations with the international community on nuclear issue have been successful and hoped that the applicable sanctions will be removed very soon.

He further expressed his hope that with the removal of international sanctions, Iran’s trade volume and economic relations with its neighbors will further improve.

JOINT ECONOMIC COMMIS­SION: On the first day of the meeting, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said top leadership of both the countries was serious in taking the relationship to a new level.

“We have endeavored to materialize what our leadership feels. We will not only try to expand the existing trade, economic and bilateral ties in other areas, but also make efforts to stabilise them,” Dar said while co-chairing the meeting with his Iranian counterpart.

Regarding sanctions against Iran, Dar said Pakistan supports Iran on the international fora and argued with the world community to open trade with Iran on humanitarian goods.

Iranian Minister for Finance Dr Ali Taieb Ni reciprocated the feelings and said that he was pleased to be in Pakistan to lead his side at the JEC.

He also expressed resolve to cooperate with Pakistan in the areas of energy import, transport and communications, mining, agriculture, health and banking sector development, through a comprehensive framework agreement.

The JEC will discuss issues of banking problems with Iran due to sanctions imposed by the US and UN; Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project to expedite its implementation, up-gradation of Quetta-Taftan railway track and improvement of Noshki-Dalbandin section of N-40 Highway.

On the import of energy from Iran, both sides will also discuss the import of 74MW power from Iran for Mekran Division, Balochistan; 100MW from Iran to Gwadar and 1000MW from Iran for Balochistan and the national grid.

Published in Dawn December 9th , 2014