YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Armenia has reached a “political” agreement with neighboring Iran on importing larger amounts of Iranian natural gas, outgoing Energy Minister Garegin Baghramyan said on Thursday.
Baghramyan also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Armenian and Georgian officials are already negotiating on possible Iranian gas supplies to Georgia that would be carried out via Armenia.
The gas issue featured large during Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s official visit to Tehran last week. Speaking after talks with Pashinyan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his hydrocarbon-rich country is ready to sell more gas to Armenia and also use Armenian territory for gas exports to Georgia.
Pashinyan said that Yerevan is willing to boost imports of Iranian gas. He admitted, though, that the two sides have yet to agree on its price.
Armenia currently receives up to 500 million cubic meters of Iranian gas each year under a swap scheme that also involves exports of Armenian electricity to the Islamic Republic. Its overall gas imports total roughly 2 billion cubic meters per annum and they mostly come from Russia. According to the current and former Armenian governments, Russian gas is cheaper for the South Caucasus state than Iranian.
In Baghramyan’s words, Rouhani and Pashinyan instructed relevant Iranian and Armenian bodies to look into ways of implementing their “political understandings” on the gas issue, and a commercial deal could take different forms.
“There could be an increase in [Iranian gas] volumes for the purpose of a transit to Georgia,” explained the minister. “If there is a mutually beneficial price offer, there could be an increase in gas volumes in the form of direct sales [to Armenia.]”
“Not only we are negotiating [with Georgia] but also Iranian companies have reached certain understandings with Georgian companies,” Baghramyan, adding that Armenia is ready to serve as a transit route for Iranian gas supplies to Georgia.
Baghramyan further insisted that Russia’s Gazprom gas giant cannot block or impede greater Iranian gas supplies to Armenia.
Gazprom not only meets the bulk of Armenia’s gas needs but also owns the country’s gas distribution network. The latter in turn controls the Armenian section of a pipeline delivering Iranian gas. The pipeline can pump at least 2 billion cubic meters of gas annually.