ISLAMABAD - Pakistan aims to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project soon despite reservations of the United States, officials said.

The government has decided to send demarches to US, European Council and other related forums on the IP project, said the officials.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has already asked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to resolve the irritants to complete the project.

For years, Pakistan and Iran have been working to complete the IP gas pipeline project soon to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis. IP pipeline project - also called Peace Pipeline – is aimed at constructing pipeline from Iran’s South Pars fields in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan’s major cities of Karachi and Multan. The pipeline can carry 110 million cubic meters of gas a day. Iran will initially transfer 30 million cubic meters of gas per day to Pakistan but will eventually increase the gas transfer to 60 million cubic meters per day.

Foreign ministry officials said Iran had asked Pakistan “not to follow the United States” on the IP project. “They believe the US is stopping us (Pakistan) to move further on the project. We have tried to defuse this impression,” said an official.

Iran Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost said Iran had fulfilled its commitments regarding construction of gas pipeline in the Iranian section and was ready to start export of gas to Pakistan at the earliest in case of implementation of the commitments by Pakistan.

He said no energy source could be replacement of the IP gas pipeline for growing gas requirements of Pakistan. “Especially in view of implementation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Iranian gas will not only fulfil the gas requirements of Pakistan in the coming years rather its transit to China can also be considered,” he explained.

PM Imran Khan has directed FM Qureshi to review the gas prices and to work jointly with Iran to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. The PM believes international sanctions on Iran were the biggest hurdle for the incompletion of mega project.

PM Khan had visited Iran on April 21. During his two-day trip, he held important meetings with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In their meeting, Prime Minister Khan and President Rouhani discussed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, and the means to further bolster and expand their relations in diverse fields, including IP project. In the recent years, Iran had protested against former army chief Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of the Saudi-led alliance. Riyadh had desired to appoint Raheel Sharif as head of the military alliance even prior to his retirement in November 2016. Pakistan has a number of times told Iran that its closeness to Saudi Arabia was not against Tehran.

But Prime Minister Imran Khan’s April visit improved the situation. In a joint statement issued after the high-level meetings, the two sides “called for swift implementation of bilateral agreements as a step towards realizing this important goal.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan. The dates for the visit will be worked out through diplomatic channels.

“Both sides highlighted that common borders should be the borders of peace and friendship, and acknowledged the necessity of forging regular cooperation and exchange of views between political, military and security officials of the two countries to combat threats such as terrorism, smuggling of narcotics, human trafficking, hostage-taking, money- laundering and abduction,” said the joint statement. It was also agreed that the 10th Round of the Special Security Committee of the two Ministries of Interior will be held in Islamabad in June 2019 to discuss these matters in detail.

Considering the importance of developing connectivity and transit corridors in order to accelerate and facilitate bilateral and regional cooperation and trade, both sides welcomed the implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements including the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as well as agreements on establishing the North-South and East-West corridors in Iran.