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Iran Press TV

Afghan, Pakistani, Indian officials launch Turkmen natural gas pipeline

Iran Press TV

Fri Feb 23, 2018 03:21PM

The Afghan president and Pakistani prime minister have inaugurated a 1,814 kilometer gas pipeline that will carry Turkmenistan's natural gas to Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India after its construction officially began on the Afghan-Turkmen border.

The pipeline project, which is known by the acronym TAPI, was launched on Friday as workers welded the first link crossing the border with Afghanistan's western province of Herat in a ceremony observed on video bridge by Afghan and Turkmen presidents, Pakistan's premier and India's foreign minister, AP reported.

"We are transforming TAPI into a corridor that unites the region," said Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani as quoted in an AP report. "This is not only an economic but also a political project."

The inauguration event on the border was followed by another ceremony in the Afghan capital of Kabul later in the day attended by Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as well as a representative of the Indian government.

Ghani told the crowd at the Kabul event that the pipeline, which is to carry 33 billion cubic meters of gas per year, is a message to future generations, adding: "We hope our next generation will see this pipeline as the foundation of a joint position in our region which is aimed at improving our economy, providing jobs and increasing our security, all in our fight against extremists."

He further stated that the next big project being readied is the laying of Afghanistan's first railway tracks, from the Turkmenistan border to Iran.

"We, Afghans have suffered but now we are looking to our future and we have no hostility with any country and want only our national interests to be protected," Ghani emphasized.

This is while the pipeline construction through the war-torn country will be guarded by heavy security measures, according to spokesman for the Heart provincial governor's office, Jelani Farhad.

"It's a golden day for Afghanistan today," Farhad added, however, insisting that "it will help our economy and create thousands of jobs."

The pipeline - expected to take two years to complete after several years of planning - reflects a rare show of cooperation between often hostile neighbors Pakistan and India as well as the often contentious neighbors Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although security has been a major hurdle leading up to the inauguration events, Farhad further underlined that Afghanistan has devised a detailed security plan to protect the pipeline construction as well as the pipeline.

Interestingly, the TAPI project enjoys the support of Washington – which has persistently opposed another pipeline project taking Iranian natural gas to Pakistan and India – as well as the Taliban terrorist group, which has even pledged to "guarantee the pipeline's security," according to the report.

"We are ready to protect TAPI. It is good and important and vital for the economy of Afghanistan," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, speaking to AP in a telephone interview, further noting that the pipeline had been under consideration during the Taliban rule that ended in 2001 with the military invasion of the country by US-led forces.

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