08 February 2007
Peace pipeline: Iran for tripartite summit
However, the need for talks on gas pricing, project structure underscored.
8 February 2007
'Peace pipeline': Iran for tripartite summit
TEHRAN: As technical negotiations on the proposed 2,700-km-long trilateral gas pipeline project inch ahead, Iran on Wednesday sought to give the process a political boost by offering to host a summit where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could jointly sign the final agreement.
The summit proposal — which took External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his delegation somewhat by surprise — was made by Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at a joint press conference here.
However, both Mr. Mottaki and Mr. Mukherjee were quick to underscore the importance of first completing the trilateral negotiations on gas pricing and project structure as quickly as possible so that the pipeline project could take concrete shape. The Indian Minister noted that Pakistan and Iran had already agreed on a price formula and that a Pakistani delegation would soon visit India to take the process forward.
Both Ministers also agreed that any trilateral meeting would likely be preceded by a separate bilateral visit to Tehran by Dr. Singh at a time to be decided by the two countries.
Indian officials told The Hindu that the Prime Minister could visit Iran this year if ongoing negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement and a double Tax Avoidance agreement were concluded quickly and if there was further movement on the energy and economic fronts.
Though Mr. Mottaki repeatedly referred to the project as the "peace pipeline," Mr. Mukherjee stuck to the formal nomenclature of `Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.'
Asked about the U.S. opposition to India's ties with Iran, he said: "Our relationship with Iran... is independent of our relationship with any third country." India had "excellent political and economic relations with Iran" and intended to continue that relationship.
Mr. Mukherjee also met Mr. Ahmadinejad, the former President, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator.
In his opening remarks at the press conference, Mr. Mukherjee reiterated India's stand that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and negotiation.