YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia plans to increase imports of natural gas from neighboring Iran and will sign a relevant agreement with the Islamic Republic soon, a senior Armenian official said on Friday.
Armenia currently imports up to 500 million cubic meters of Iranian gas annually through a pipeline built in 2008. By comparison, Russian gas supplies to the South Caucasus country total around 2 billion cubic meters.
The Iranian gas has until now been formally purchased by a state-owned Armenian thermal-power plant. The plant pays for it with electricity delivered to Iran.
According to Artashes Tumanian, the Armenian ambassador to Iran, Yerevan offered recently to buy additional volumes of Iranian gas, some of which could be re-exported to Georgia. The Iranian side accepted the proposal, he said.
“Appropriate documents are being prepared and projects drawn up right now and I think that unless something extraordinary happens, the deal will be signed,” Tumanian said. He declined to specify possible dates for its signing.
In what was clearly a related development, the Armenian government announced in August that it will set up an energy firm tasked with importing Iranian gas. It said nothing about import volumes. The announcement came shortly after then Energy Minister Levon Yolian’s visit to Tehran.
Tumanian insisted that Russia will not object to the planned Armenian-Iranian deal because it “does not run counter to anybody’s interests.” “Documents are close to being agreed upon, and I see no obstacles on either side,” he said.
Even before Yerevan moved to boost Iranian gas imports, the existing Armenian-Iranian swap arrangement was due to be expanded dramatically after the construction of a third power transmission line connecting the two neighboring states. Work on the $120 million line is slated for completion in 2019.