American lobby to sabotage US$10 billion Russian offshore pipeline

Aftab Ahmed

Islamabad:American lobby in ministry of foreign affairs swings in action after Pakistan and Russia move ahead on US $10 billion offshore gas pipeline project.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs has annoyed Russia for refusing to sign agreement on US$10 billion offshore gas pipeline project in presence of premier Imran Khan at Prime Minister Office.

Russian energy giant Gazprom and Pakistan,s state run Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) are set to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to implement US$10 billion offshore gas pipeline project, an idea coined by Moscow to capture the energy market of Pakistan.

Owing to a long-running tussle with Europe and the US over the annexation of Ukrainian region of Crimea, Russia is looking for alternative markets and wants to capitalise on increasing energy demand in South Asia.

American’s energy giant ExxonMobil has landed Pakistan to engage in offshore drilling and was welcomed with a big show and now ministry of foreign affairs does not want Prime Minister to grace the occasion of signing multibillion dollars offshore agreement which had irritated Russia.

In a letter sent to Petroleum Division secretary, Malik Muhammad Farooq Director General Europe-2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on implementing offshore gas pipeline project between Pakistan,s designated entity Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) and Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it does not support signing of MoU either in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan or at the prime Minister,s office as the same is commercial agreement between two commercial entities, Farooq said adding that it would be appropriate if the alternate venue is selected.

Petroleum division had approached Prime Minister,s office requesting to hold signing ceremony at Prime Minister office. In a letter, Petroleum division said that secretary petroleum had spoken to additional secretary Europe-2 ministry of foreign affairs regarding signing of Inter corporate agreement between ISGL and Gazprom proposed to be held at Prime Minister,s office on February 6.Additional secretary Europe did not give any cogent reason as to why the signing ceremony should not be held at Prime Minister,s office.

Petroleum division informed that in the first instance a feasibility study would be conducted by Gazprom at its own cost with no financial implications on Pakistan. Certain economic benefits such as transit fee would accrue to Pakistan if the project is implemented. Moreover, the subject project would bring Pakistan on the world map as the transit country for offshore gas pipelines. Besides, Pakistan will also have an option to off take gas from the transit gas pipeline. In view of the consideration of the project, the proposal of the ministry may be considered to hold signing ceremony at Prime Minister,s office.

Earlier in Moscow, Pakistan and Russia had signed a deal for conducting feasibility study on a planned $10-billion offshore gas pipeline. Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) Additional Secretary Sher Afgan and Deputy Energy Minister of Russia Anatoly Yanovsky signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for undertaking the study. This deal was signed on government to government level and now entities of two companies were going to enter agreement.

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