TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran will sign a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline deal with Pakistan in the absence of India by the end of October, a top Iranian oil official said on Saturday.
“The peace pipeline contract … will be ready to sign by the end of October,” Hojatollah Ghanimi-Fard, Iran’s representative to the talks, told the oil ministry’s news service Shana.
Indian officials have been absent from the talks over the so-called “peace pipeline” between Iranian and Pakistani officials to finalise the long-delayed deal, which would see Iranian gas sent to Pakistan and to India via Pakistan.
“It was agreed that the price be calculated according to the current gas market standards,” Ghanimi-Fard was quoted as saying by the state IRNA news agency.
“Pakistan asked for 60 million cubic metres per day, 30 million of which was approved,” he said.
“All issues of disagreement were studied again and all points have been finalized,” he said, adding the final meeting will be held in Pakistan in mid-October to “study the text of the contract to see if it does not contradict agreements.”
Ghanimi-Fard said India was welcome to join the contract “whenever this country’s problems are resolved and it will be a tripartite deal.”
An Iranain official said earlier this week that India was not taking part in the discussions because it had yet to finalise a deal with Pakistan over the cost of transit across its neighbour’s territory.
Discussions on the 7.4-billion-dollar project started in 1994, but have been held up by technical and commercial issues.
There have also been strong objections to the pipeline from the United States — a key friend of Pakistan and an ever closer ally of India — which is at loggerheads with Iran over its contested nuclear programme.
The 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) pipeline from Iran’s giant South Pars gas field would initially carry around 60 million standard cubic metres (2.2 billion cubic feet) of gas per day.
Iran has the world’s second largest gas reserves after Russia but until now has remained a relatively minor player in the global export market.