By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Russia has agreed to provide oil to Pakistan at discounted rates to meet Islamabad's rising domestic and industrial energy demands, a Pakistani minister said on Monday.
Addressing a presser in the capital Islamabad, State Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik said Pakistan would purchase crude oil, petrol, and diesel from Russia at discounted rates.
The development came days after a Pakistani delegation led by Malik visited Moscow last week to negotiate with Russian authorities.
Pakistan has been grappling with increasing energy requirements, mainly oil and gas, together with an inflating current account deficit because of oil payments.
Moscow, according to Malik, also invited Islamabad to begin talks on long-term liquefied natural gas contracts for 2025 and 2026.
- Pending gas pipeline project
A Russian inter-governmental delegation is scheduled to visit Pakistan in January next year to finalize the oil purchase contracts.
Malik said the two sides have also kicked off talks for the resumption of two major gas pipeline projects, which have long been stalled due to US sanctions.
"We requested some flexibility because Pakistan has many constraints. We are committed to the agreements but we want some flexibility,” Malik added, referring to a string of previous and new international sanctions, particularly related to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Pakistan and Russia have inked two agreements -- in 2015 and 2021-- for the construction of a 1,100-kilometer (684-mile) gas pipeline, known as the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project, from the port city of Karachi to the northeastern Punjab province.
The $2.5-billion project was slated to begin this year, but analysts see dim chances for its resumption anytime soon due to myriad global sanctions on Moscow, which will have longtime impacts.
- Wheat import
Pakistan will also import wheat from Russia despite the international sanctions on Russia that came with Moscow's war on Kyiv.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told reporters in Islamabad on Monday that the country's Economic Coordination Council has approved the import of 450,000 tons of wheat from Russia on a government-to-government basis to be effective in February-March next year.
The procurement of oil has long been a center of local politics, particularly after the visit of former Prime Minister Imran Khan only a day before Russia launched its war on Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Khan, ousted through a successful no-trust move in the parliament in April, claimed that his Moscow visit was one of the reasons behind his ouster.