IP gas project in limbo: Pakistan wants Iran to interpret sanctions

LAHORE: Pakistan has urged Iran to explain in-writing its interpretation of sanctions that resulted in a massive delay in completion of the mega Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

“The government has taken up the issue in a recent meeting with the Iranian petroleum ministry’s advisers held in Islamabad. During the meeting, we have asked them to give us a detailed clarity over their interpretation of the sanctions under which they claim that the restrictions don’t affect completion of the project,” Inter State Gas System (ISGS) Managing Director Mr Mobeen Saulat told Dawn on Tuesday.

For the last four years, the IP gas project, under which Pakistan was reportedly supposed to receive as many as 750MMCF of natural gas from Iran daily through an agreement, is off the table due to international sanctions – both multilateral imposed by the United Nations and the unilateral clamped by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union.

The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US were the most severe amongst all international restrictions — Iran Sanctions Act 1996, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act 2010 and National Defence Authorisation Act-2012. The construction work on the Pakistani section of the pipeline had been inaugurated in March 2013 and it was planned to be completed within 22 months.

“As far as we understand, we cannot move ahead on the project due to sanctions imposed on Iran. But they (Iranian petroleum ministry advisers) have their own interpretation of the sanctions. So we have engaged them in the process to understand the [sanctions] interpretation of each other,” the ISGS official said.

“That is why we have told them that we need detailed clarity in writing from them in this regard, as we cannot go ahead with the project with their verbal interpretation. They have agreed to provide us a detailed reply,” the MD added.

The official said as soon as the government received an explanation from Iran [over sanctions’ regime] it would study and evaluate the same in depth. And if it finds the same justified, it may be in a position to resolve the issue.

“Since it is a very important project in view of the 750MMCFD natural gas provision to Pakistan, the government wants to resolve this issue by understanding the interpretation of the sanctions,” he said.


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