ISLAMABAD: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov said on Monday Islamabad and Moscow were in the "advanced stage" of negotiations to build the long-delayed Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP), which is to be set up in Pakistan in collaboration with Russian companies.
The two sides agreed in 2015 to build the 1,100-kilometer pipeline to deliver imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to power plants in the northeastern province of Punjab.
“We are currently in the advance stages of work on the agreement on PSGP and I am sure that in the near future, we will see more progress,” Lavrov told reporters at a joint media briefing with Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is in Moscow for delegation-level talks.
Bhutto Zardari's visit comes weeks after Pakistan and Russia announced they would try to finalize by March a deal for Moscow to sell discounted oil products to the cash-strapped South Asian nation.
A Russian delegation was in Pakistan earlier this month to attend the 8th Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meetings, during which multiple memoranda of understanding were signed and it was "conceptually agreed" that Russia would provide cheap crude oil to Pakistan as it struggles to meet its energy needs amid a severe foreign exchange crisis. Russia also said this month it would allow Pakistan to pay for the energy imports in currencies of friendly countries.
Historically Pakistan has had no major commercial relations with Moscow, unlike neighbouring India, and as a traditional US ally, it had also been hesitant to do trade or any business with Moscow in the past.
It currently depends on oil from Gulf countries, which often extend facilities such as deferred payments and can supply with lower transport costs, given Pakistan's relative proximity.
The G7 economies, the European Union and Australia agreed to a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil effective from Dec. 5 over Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine. And last week, the US State Department said the cap would allow "energy markets to continue to be resourced while depriving Moscow of the revenue it would need to continue to propagate and fuel its brutal war against Ukraine.”
“The United States and its allies will make obstacles but our friends from Pakistan have mentioned that they are first of all guided by their legitimate national interest of developing their economy and helping their people by providing all the necessities including the energy,” Lavrov told media, appreciating Pakistan for its "impartial and balanced position" on the Ukrainian conflict.
“I have shared my views [with Bhutto Zardari] on the situation related to the consequences of the western activities to use Ukraine to launch a hybrid war against the Russian Federation,” he added.
Bhutto Zardari said the Pakistan government was committed to fulfilling the energy and other needs of its people at all costs.
“We had detained discussions on this [energy cooperation] and are expecting positive progress on our discussion on energy cooperation,” the Pakistani FM said. “As far as other countries are concerned, I expect them not to interfere in the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia.”
On the issue of the war in Ukraine, Bhutto Zardari hoped "dialogue and diplomacy" would prevail over "polarization and conflict."
“We have a firm belief that all conflicts can be resolved peacefully and there are no obstacles which diplomacy cannot surmount, and the Ukraine conflict is no exception,” he said, adding that developing countries like Pakistan were facing the negative consequences, especially economic, of the conflict.
“Pakistan sees itself as a bridge builder and we want to see cooperation regionally and internationally even between the great powers,” he said. “We value our relationship with Russia and equally value our relationship with the United States and Europe.”
“We intend to intensify cooperation with Russia in the areas of trade, economy, security counter-terrorism, defense," Bhutto Zardari said, "as well as cultural, educational, and people-to-people ties."