June 20, 2010
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sunday defended the 7.5 billion-U.S.-dollar gas pipeline with Iran and said Islamabad will take the project forward despite sanctions on Iran.
Qureshi’s comments came hours after U.S. Special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke warned Pakistan against the pipeline intended to bring the much-needed natural gas to the energy starved country.
Pakistan and Iran formally signed the deal in Tehran on June 13, under which Iran will supply Pakistan with natural gas from mid- 2014.
“The gas pipeline project with Iran is in Pakistan’s interests, ” the Pakistani Foreign Minister told a news conference in the city of Multan in Punjab.
Qureshi said that Pakistani experts are of the opinion that sanctions on Iran will not affect gas pipeline project as it is a bilateral agreement and both countries have already finalized the deal.
He said that gas pipeline deal with Iran will not violate international laws, adding Pakistan will focus on its interests without violating international laws.
The Pakistani Foreign Minister said that the visiting U.S envoy Richard Holbrooke also remained silent when he was asked about the Iran gas pipeline deal on Saturday.
He said sanctions on Iran have not been imposed for the first time and that the Islamic republic had also been slapped with curbs three times before. He added that it is fourth time that Iran has been sanctioned, adding that if these sanctions have been imposed under chapter 7 of the UN then all UN members will apply and Pakistan will respect it like other countries.
The pipeline was initially mooted to carry gas from Iran to Pakistan and on to India. India withdrew from negotiations last year after signing a nuclear deal with the United States, but has kept open the option of rejoining the project at a later stage.
Iran will export more than 21 million cubic metres (742 million cubic feet) of natural gas daily, according to the deal.
Meanwhile Iranian ambassador in Islamabad Mash’ Allah Shakeri has said the multi-billion Iran gas pipeline has enhanced Pakistan ‘ s strategic importance, particularly in relation to India.
“In addition to the added economic value of billions of dollars, the Iran gas pipeline agreement has boosted the strategic value of Pakistan in the region. If there is any third country recipient, they have to recognize that Pakistan is going to provide a peaceful passage,” Shakeri told Express Television in an interview.