ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's prime minister said Friday that Turkmenistan will begin construction on a much-delayed gas pipeline stretching from Central Asia to South Asia by the end of the year, a project that once completed is expected to help his energy-starved Islamic nation overcome the shortage of natural gas in the years to come.
Nawaz Sharif told a meeting of business leaders in Islamabad that he would travel to Turkmenistan in December for the project's ground-breaking ceremony, which is also to be attended by other South Asian leaders as. The pipeline is to be built in four years, he added.
Sharif did not give further details about the project, known as TAPI — an abbreviation for the four countries involved: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
An official at Turkmengaz, the state natural gas company in Turkmenistan, confirmed that all exploration and prospecting work is to be completed by Dec. 10. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said the date for the start of construction has not yet been set.
The four countries reached an understanding on the multi-billion dollar 1,735-kilometer (1,140-mile) pipeline in 2010, to export gas from energy-rich Turkmenistan. But construction was delayed due to differences over price-fixing and India's concerns over the pipeline's security.
Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced during a visit to Pakistan that he hoped the landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers could pave the way for the resumption of work on a Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project. Iran has invested over $2 billion in the project, but Pakistan has yet to finish construction on its half of the pipeline.
Associated Press writer Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.