Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 145

The U.S. company UNOCAL, along with Delta of Saudi Arabia and the Oil and Gas ministers of Turkmenistan and Pakistan signed in Islamabad on July 23 an agreement to build a major export pipeline for Turkmen gas. The 1,400 kilometer-long pipeline, with an annual throughput capacity of 20 billion cubic meters, will run from Daulatabad, one of Turkmenistan’s largest gas fields, to Pakistan via Afghanistan. The project’s cost is estimated at $2 billion to $2.7 billion. The consortium is to be officially constituted by October, 1997, construction is to begin by December, 1998. Completion of the project is expected in the year 2001. The Pakistani minister stated that the project would "transform the fate of the entire region" and set a trend for further projects involving oil pipelines and telecommunications connecting Central Asia to South Asian markets. (Islamabad TV, July 23)

The signing also highlights the importance of Afghanistan as a transit route for Central Asian energy and mineral exports. The Taliban leadership, together with Pakistan, which supports it, are key factors in promoting this project. This fact also helps explain Turkmenistan’s relaxed attitude toward the Taliban, contrasting to the fears voiced by other Central Asian leaders.

Central Asian Summit Discusses Economic and Security Cooperation with West.