Pakistan has told the United States that it will not abandon its plans to import natural gas from Iran, arguing that economic sanctions on Tehran are not applicable to the multibillion dollar project, an official said on Friday.
At his weekly news briefing, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Pakistan had handed over a ‘non-paper’ to US Secretary of State John Kerry informing Washington about its perspective on the Iran gas pipeline project.
“The rationale for giving a non paper to the US was to convey our perspective, with particular reference to whether or not this project would attract US sanctions. In our legal assessment, the US sanctions do not apply on this project,” Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said.
He pointed out that Pakistan’s energy requirements “warrant that we explore all possible options, including the Pakistan-Iran pipeline project.”
“Our side has shared our perspective and understanding of these issues with the US side,” the spokesman said.
Washington has long been pushing Islamabad to abandon the multibillion dollar project and threatened to impose economic sanctions if it goes ahead with the plan. But the non-paper clearly suggests that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has no plans to reverse the decision of the Pakistan Peoples Party government, which signed the historic deal with Iran.
Answering a question, the spokesman termed John Kerry’s recent visit as ‘successful’, saying his trip had contributed to strengthening Pakistan-US bilateral relationship.
“The strategic dialogue has been resumed. The five working groups under the ambit of the strategic dialogue will meet in the coming months culminating with ministerial level strategic dialogue within six months,” he said.
The working groups will discuss proposals and projects in energy, economic and finance, counter terrorism and other areas, he informed reporters.
“We thus have a solid framework in place now to pursue tangible cooperation between the two countries,” the spokesman said.
He said Pakistan conveyed its concerns to Kerry about the CIA-led drone campaign in the tribal areas. On Aafia Siddiqui’s repatriation, the spokesman maintained that the issue did not come up for discussion since Pakistan and the US had no prisoner exchange treaty.
The spokesman confirmed that Pakistan proposed dates for talks on Wullar Barrage and Sir Creek issues with India under the composite dialogue.
“There are indications that the composite dialogue will resume soon. The leadership of the two countries has already expressed the desire to see improved relations between the two countries,” he said.
He said the Pakistani side had proposed dates for two of the eight segments of the composite dialogue.
“We are yet to hear from the Indian side whether those dates are convenient for them. Similarly, the Indian side is also expected to propose dates of the events that it is to host,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2013.