ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Kazakhstan is interested in taking part in the multilateral natural gas pipeline project extending east from Turkmenistan, its government said.
Last month, the governments of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan created a joint venture project to steer the development of the 1,000-mile pipeline, which has financial backing from the Asian Development Bank.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during a Tuesday visit with his counterpart in Turkmenistan his government stands by and is ready to take part in the project, described as part of a "new Silk Road."
Kazakhstan is one of the region's largest oil producers and much of its natural gas reserves are associated with those deposits. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the country has proven natural gas reserves of 85 trillion cubic feet.
The so-called TAPI pipeline would draw from the Galkynysh natural gas field in Turkmenistan, which itself has commercial reserves of as much as 14 trillion cubic feet.
Kazakh political analyst Eduard Poletayev told the region's Trend news service TAPI offers Kazakhstan a way to diversify an energy sector isolated during its Soviet era.
"Since its independence day Kazakhstan has been trying to get out of the transport isolation in which it found itself as a result of the peculiarities of economic development of the Soviet Union," he said in an interview published Tuesday.
Political and economic developments in Central Asia mean their respective energy needs are on the rise. TAPI is favored by Western powers over a similar rival project planned by Iran.
The four parties to the pipeline want to have a credible operator in place for the $10 billion project by the time members of the steering committee meet again in Islamabad in February. First gas could flow through the pipeline as early as 2017.