Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was halted in January 2012 after President Barack Obama said the project required further review. REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the fate of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline with his Canadian counterpart, John Baird, during their first official meeting in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

Kerry said the project would undergo a “fair and transparent review” and that he expected to make a decision on whether to move forward with it in the “near term,” the Associated Press reported.

The $7 billion pipeline project, which could eventually transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast for export, was put on hold by President Barack Obama last January after he rejected the initial plan and called for a more extensive review.

The final decision will fall upon the State Department as the pipeline crosses over international borders.

Congressional Republicans have urged Kerry to sign off on the Keystone XL project, saying it would help the economy.

"Our economy can no longer be put on hold while the bureaucratic process you set in motion jeopardizes this critical project," Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote in an open letter to the president on Wednesday.

The project, however, has drawn criticism from environmental advocates due to the energy-intensive process involved in extracting crude oil from Canadian tar sands and the threat it poses to natural resources.

"This pipeline is not in our national interest -- the evidence shows it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we cannot afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk," read a Feb. 6 letter to Kerry from some 60 environmental groups.

Kerry has expressed his regret that he was unable to get climate change legislation passed after 30 years in the Senate, but he reaffirmed his commitment to addressing climate change as an extension of U.S. foreign policy upon his appointment last month as Secretary of State.