January 15 2003



Headline: Jamali, Karzai, Niyazov to sign gas deal today -- Detail Story

ASHKHABAD, Turkmenistan: Turkmen President Sapamurat Niyazov, Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali and Afghan President Hamid Karzai finalised a vital gas pipeline agreement here on Thursday.

The leaders of the three countries would sign the framework agreement to build the 1,500-kilometre Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad fields across Afghanistan to Pakistan on Friday.

The trilateral summit was held at the President's Palace for almost two hours and they also discussed the regional situation and the ways and means to further improve relations among them.

Later, the Turkmen president hosted banquet in honour of the visiting dignitaries and their respective delegations at the President's Palace. Prime Minister Jamali assured President Hamid Karzai of Pakistan's continuous support to the Bonn process, rehabilitation and reconstruction work and for achieving durable peace in Afghanistan, during a meeting on the sidelines of the trilateral summit.

Karzai thanked Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for two decades and all the support given by Pakistan to restore peace and security in Afghanistan. He hoped that bilateral relations would further be strengthened and both countries would continue to work together for the establishment of peace in the region.

The two leaders also discussed the release of Pakistani prisoners in Afghanistan. Karzai pointed out that 400 prisoners had already been released and assured the prime minister that all the remaining prisoners would soon be released.

Prime Minister Jamali will meet President Niyazov at the Presidential Palace on Friday to discuss bilateral issues. He will be assisted by Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Ch Naoraiz Shakoor, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Brig (retd) Mansoor Hamid, and Foreign Secretary Riaz H Khokhar.

The two sides will discuss ways and means to further promote the existing trade and economic relations between the two countries. The issue of resumption of PIA flights to Turkmenistan is likely to come up under discussion.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jamali was warmly received by President Saparmurat Niyazov on his first visit to Turkmenistan. "I am doubly happy -- firstly, you came to Turkmenistan and secondly it is your first visit abroad after becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan," said President Niyazov as he exchanged pleasantries with Prime Minister Jamali at the Presidential Palace.

The Prime Minister conveyed message from President Pervez Musharraf to Turkmen President and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The prime minister said that he was very happy to be in Ashkabad on his first visit. "If I pronounced Ashkabad in Urdu, it will be Ishq Abad," he added.

President Hamid Karzai also thanked President Musharraf for his best wishes and regards. Before leaving for Ashkabad, Prime Minister Jamali told reporters at Islamabad airport that the TAP gas pipeline project would have a positive impact on the regional economy and bring about a qualitative change in the lifestyle of the people.

He hoped that the summit would also provide opportunity for all the three countries to further improve their trade and economic ties. To a question, he said Afghanistan was now on the road to progress and its neighbouring countries were not only desirous of improving their economic ties but were also keen to see that the reconstruction efforts gained pace.

Jamali said he would discuss with the other sides the huge trade potential that existed amongst the three countries.
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