BY GIORGI LOMSADZE
Giving away perhaps the last opportunity for energy independence, Armenia plans to sell its 41-kilometer-long section of an Iranian natural-gas export pipeline to Russian energy leviathan, Gazprom. The decision leaves Moscow in full control of natural-gas supply routes to Armenia.
Armenia Energy Minister Ara Simonian assured Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, however, that the terms of a state license will not allow Gazprom Armenia to mess with imports from Iran.
Those imports, though, are just a quarter of the annual 2 billion cubic meters Armenia receives from Russia, its economic and security patron.
Originally, many observers abroad and in Armenia alike had hoped that the Iranian-Armenia pipeline, completed in 2008, would wean Armenia off energy dependence on Russia.
Moscow is believed to use its position as Armenia’s economic, energy and security patron to ensure the country’s fealty – a situation that does not necessarily make it tolerant toward market-competitors.
Moscow first tried to set a limit to the Iranian-Armenian pipeline’s diameter and, hence, its supply capacity. Then, Gazprom muscled its way into taking over domestic distribution and, now, all import infrastructure.
Commenting on the takeover of the Iranian pipeline, Gazprom Armenia, Gazprom’s local distribution monopoly, said that it only made business sense to let one company operate the country’s supply-and-distribution infrastructure.
The company’s spokesperson told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that a “tentative agreement” on such a handover has existed since 2007. A $30-million “prepayment” already has been made, she said.
Ironically, a year ago, EurasiaNet.org reported, Yerevan indicated it intended to increase its Iranian imports to 2 bcm.
At the time, Moscow had remained strangely silent.
Now, it seems, the reason why is plain.