(MENAFN - Saudi Press Agency) Senior officials in Turkmenistan said the energy-rich Central Asian nation plans to sign a natural gas sales agreement with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India this month, AP reported.
The deal would mark a decisive move toward construction of a pipeline crossing the four nations that backers hope will meet energy demands across the region.
Two high-ranking officials, who cannot be named as they are not authorized to speak with the media, told The Associated Press this week they expect the agreement to be signed at an energy conference in Turkmenistan late May.
Progress on the project has to date been delayed by disagreement among participant nations on transit fees and the price for the gas.
It has been widely assumed that gas for the more than 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) pipeline will be sourced from the Dauletabad field in southern Turkmenistan.
An official from the state gas company said, however, that a portion of the fuel will eventually be drawn from the vast and yet-to-be developed South Yolotan field near the Afghan border.
The gas pipeline across Afghanistan, projected to ship 33 billion cubic meters a year, has been actively backed by the United States. It would give Turkmenistan a further export route for its copious energy reserves and generate revenue for Afghanistan.
Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov has said Afghanistan could stand to earn more than 1 billion annually in transit fees. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai predicts maintaining the pipeline could provide employment for 50,000 people in Afghanistan alone.