ISLAMABAD - Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on Sunday said that a breakthrough is expected on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project by the end this year.

Talking to newsmen after inaugurating a day long international conference on “Turkmenistan’s Policy of Permanent Neutrality, he said that TAPI is an important gas pipeline project to meet energy needs of the region and assurances about security of the project have been given by Afghanistan. He said an important meeting of all the stakeholders of TAPI project was held recently where most of the issues have been settled. He said leading financing agency had agreed to provide finance for the important project and the issue of pricing will be finalised very soon.

Answering a question, the Advisor said due to law and order situation in Afghanistan, the project was delayed and added that now the Afghanistan government had ensured the safety and security of the project, therefore, it is hoped that the work on this important gas project will be started by end of this year.

To a question about peace process in Afghanistan, the advisor said that no timeline can be given as far as reconciliation and resolution of the conflict are considered. He, however, said that process is moving forward.

Responding another question Sartaj Aziz said the recent tension at the level of Foreign Affairs ministries of Pakistan and India will not affect the overall dialogue process between the two countries. He said Pakistan is waiting for invitation from Indian side so that its Foreign Secretary can visit India to formally resume the dialogue process.

On the dispute of water between Pakistan and India, the Advisor said there is a mechanism under Indus-Water Treaty to settle the water dispute between the two countries. He said Pakistan has asked the details from India regarding construction of new dams at run of the river to determine the violation of the treaty. He said in case of any dispute, Pakistan could take up the matter to arbitrator or to the international courts.

Earlier, while addressing the seminar Sartaj Aziz said connectivity of Central Asia with South Asia through rail and road will be game changer for the improvement of development in the region. He said Turkmenistan, having vast range of natural resources especially gas and electricity and while adopting its policy of “permanent neutrality” can play a key role in the development of the region.

Sartaj Aziz emphasised the need to explore new avenues for promoting people to people contacts between Pakistan and Turkmenistan especially with introduction of liberal visa regime, creating more opportunities for promoting trade and economic activities. He said promoting trade and economic activities will play an important role in strengthening people-to-people contact and enhancing peace, development and prosperity in the region.

Appreciating the adoption of ‘Permanent Neutrality’ by Turkmenistan some 20 years ago, Sartaj Aziz said it had played an important role in enhancing and promoting the peaceful image of Turkmenistan in region and global level. He said Pakistan and Turkmenistan had close relations and it was among the first countries which opened Turkmenistan consulate to establish diplomatic ties.

He also appreciated the efforts of Turkmenistan for initiating much important energy project of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan- India (TAPI) project and expressed the hope that with its implementation, the issue of energy shortage in the region will be resolved.

Ambassador at Large of Turkmenistan Sapar Berdiniyazov in his key note address on this occasion said it was March 15, 1995 when the former President of Turkmenistan announced the policy of “Permanent Neutrality” while addressing a special function here in Islamabad which had been strictly observed and adopted by all the successive governments of Turkmenistan.

He said Turkmenistan had proved with its actions and participation in the affairs of the international community that its policy of “Permanent Neutrality” was to ensure peace, progress and prosperity in the region and in the world. He said many gas pipelines providing gas to many neighbours of Turkmenistan which indicated that it had adopted the policy of “Permanent Neutrality” for the benefit of its neighbours and the region.

The Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Pakistan Atadjan Movlamov speaking on the occasion said the policy of “Permanent Neutrality” of Turkmenistan is being used for the progress, prosperity and ensure peace and tranquillity in the region without interfering in the affairs of any other country. He said Pakistan and Turkmenistan are linked in very close and strong bonds of brotherhood and it is being strengthened day by day. He said efforts are being made to promote people-to-people contacts besides improving trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Pakistan’s first ambassador to Turkmenistan Tariq Osman Hyder, President Society of Civilisation Pakistan Prof. Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Qureshi and President Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies Farhat Asif also spoke on this occasion.