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zardariPakistan attaches great importance to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline and wants to see the project built as soon as possible, said President Asif Ali Zardari here on Wednesday.

President Zardari was in the Turkmen capital to attend the Nauroz Festival that was also attended by other world leaders.

During his meeting with Turkmen President Dr Gurbanguly M. Berdimuhamedov, Mr Zardari said Turkmenistan could help Pakistan meet its growing energy needs. In return, Pakistan could provide a trade corridor to Turkmenistan — over land and through its ports.

He recalled that he had visited Turkmenistan also in December 2010 to discuss the 1,680-km Tapi pipeline, which would bring 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Turkmenistan’s gas fields to Multan and culminate in the Indian town of Fazilka.

President Zardari said that his government fully supported Turkmenistan’s initiative to establish trans-regional energy corridors.

Discussing bilateral relations, Mr Zardari underlined the need for exploring new avenues of cooperation and finalising the measures to be taken to increase bilateral trade in order to further cement ties.

Mr Zardari said that officials of the two countries should identify items to be traded and explore means to overcome barriers. He said the chambers of commerce and industry of the two countries should work for establishing institutional linkages to
expand trade and economic cooperation.

He congratulated his Turkmen counterpart on the occasion of Nauroz and for holding the festival at a grand scale.

TAJIK PRESIDENT: During their meeting, President Zardari and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmonov reiterated their resolve to enhance economic and trade ties through better linkages and greater regional connectivity in order to fully benefit from the rich potential of the two countries.

Reiterating his proposal for a Trilateral Transit and Trade Agreement among Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, Mr Zardari said such an arrangement would help boost economic relations. He expressed the hope that the initiative would be finalised and implemented soon.

He expressed satisfaction that Pakistan-Tajikistan trade had increased from $15 million in 2011 to over $72m in 2012. Grant of the most favoured nation status on reciprocal basis would provide impetus to efforts aimed at enhancing bilateral relations, President Zardari said.

He also underscored the need for a road link between Pakistan and Tajikistan through the Wakhan corridor, connecting Ishkashim and Chitral.

President Zardari termed the ongoing Tajikistan-Turkmenistan road and rail links and gas pipeline through Afghanistan as welcome developments. He proposed that the Tajikistan-Turkmenistan gas project after finalisation be linked up with Tapi project.

AFGHAN PRESIDENT: Pakistan viewed its relations with Afghanistan as an important component of its efforts for peace and stability in the region, Mr Zardari told President Hamid Karzai.

During a meeting here, he told his Afghan counterpart that Pakistan was committed to the long-term peace and stability of Afghanistan.

He recalled that Islamabad had released a number of high-profile Taliban prisoners on the request of the Afghan High Peace Council. This was a demonstration of Pakistan’s sincerity towards the reconciliation efforts of the Afghan government.

Pakistan fully supported an Afghan-led and –owned reconciliation process for peace in Afghanistan. He said a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest.

President Zardari said despite Pakistan’s own financial constraints, it was providing bilateral assistance of $300 million to Afghanistan.

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