ISLAMABAD: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is likely to visit Islamabad on Thursday for exploring the prospects of bilateral economic cooperation after the lifting of sanctions linked to Tehran’s nuclear programme.

His trip, second in four months, is part of a South Asia visit, and he will travel to Delhi from Islamabad.

“Foreign Minister Zarif will be visiting Islamabad in coming days,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said.

According to diplomatic sources, he will be here on Aug 13.

During his stay in Islamabad, Mr Zarif will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz. He has also sought a meeting with Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif.

Mr Khalilullah said the focus of the visit would be on bilateral ties. However, regional and international issues of interest will also come under discussion.

Mr Zarif had at the end of last month undertaken a visit of Arab countries touring Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq for what was described by the Iranian foreign ministry as an effort to “strengthen ties and develop cooperation in all fields with neighbours”.

Besides developing trade and economic cooperation, Iran is through this regional outreach seeking to address its neighbours’ concerns and engage them for resolution of regional issues, such as the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and also for dealing with the threat from terrorist groups, including Daesh.

In Pakistan’s context, Tehran is specifically interested in developing energy cooperation.

Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan Alireza Haghighian had last week told Dawn: “Iran is ready to fulfil Pakistan’s requirements of electricity, natural gas, crude oil and petro-chemicals, besides cooperating in infrastructure projects like laying of highways and rail tracks, construction of dams and setting up of oil refineries and power plants.”

Iran is considered to be one of the top energy sources in the world having 158 billion barrels of oil reserves. With 34 trillion cubic metres of gas, Iran has one of the world’s largest gas reserves.

Iran and Pakistan have an agreement on building a gas pipeline, but the project had been held up because of the sanctions on Iran.

Lately, there has been talk of again including India in the project. Delhi had earlier walked out of it in view of the sanctions.

An Indian delegation is expected to visit Tehran in September to discuss the possibilities of rejoining the pipeline project.

Pakistan and Iran have also been working on an electricity sharing project. Iran is already providing 74MW of electricity to Pakistan’s border towns – a figure that is planned to be increased to 100MW. Transmission line for another 100MW project is under construction for providing electricity to Gwadar.

The two sides are now negotiating a 1,000MW agreement for which feasibility studies have been completed.

A Pakistani delegation would soon visit Tehran for negotiating and finalising power purchase agreement for 1,000MW, a spokesman for water and power ministry said.

Iranian Ambassador Ali­reza met Water and Power Secretary Younus Dagha on Monday and offered to export additional 2,000MW electricity to Pakistan.

“It was agreed that the delegation (that will visit Tehran) would also discuss modalities for completing feasibilities for additional 2,000MW export to Pakistan to take the total to 3,000MW,” the ministry said.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2015

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