KABUL - Key Afghan ministers said that work on the long-awaited Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, which aims to transfer natural gas from Turkmenistan to the three other countries, will start in December.

This comes after a senior Afghan delegation, including the Minister of Finance Iklil Hakimi, Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud Saba, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Assadullah Zamir and Economy Minister Abdul Sattar Murad visited Turkmenistan this weekend to discuss details about the project.

Highlighting the significance of the trip and the all-important Kabul-Dushanbe economic and commercial relations, officials from the Afghan Ministry of Finance said the trip was successful and that proper grounds had been established to bolster economic and transit ties between the two countries.

The Afghan delegation focused on a number of topics which are said to be critical in developing Afghanistan’s economic needs.

“Most of the issues have been solved in this trip ahead of the TAPI project,” Daud Saba said at a joint press conference in Kabul on Saturday. “The work of this project will start in December.”

“We hope that with joint cooperation this project will be practical and 12 pump stations will be built as part of the project – of which five will be in Afghanistan and $1 billion USD will be invested,” he said.

Other areas discussed were the increase of electricity from Turkmenistan, LPG and oil imports from the country into Afghanistan and improving cooperation between the two countries for the standardization of customs services.

Expanding cooperation on imports of food items from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and boosting the agricultural sector in Afghanistan also came under review.

“We had discussed about eleven sections. One of them was the railway agreement which was signed with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. This will pass from Aqina to Mazar-e-Sharif (the capital of northern Balkh) and Kunduz province to Sher Khan Bandar and Tajikistan,” Iklil Hakimi said.

“In November we would have a joint economic meeting in Ashgabat and our delegation is preparing the details,” he said.

In recent months, relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan drastically deepened and both countries came with a new agenda to take fresh initiatives at improving commercial relations.

“We have discussed five important things – among these was the exporting of dry and fresh fruits which the President of Turkmenistan talked about. We are working on the details with regards to this,” Zamir said.

“We also want to buy wheat from Turkmenistan and we are waiting for the quality test of our delegation which is working on this and then we will decide on how much wheat to buy from Turkmenistan,” he said.

Economic analysts welcomed the growing ties between the two nations and say they hope this will help secure regional interests in Afghan products as well.