YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian praised Armenia’s close energy ties with Russia at the weekend after attending a meeting in Moscow of representatives of countries buying Russian natural gas.
The meeting discussed Russia’s bitter gas dispute with Ukraine and the resulting disruption in Russian gas supplies to Europe. Sarkisian held talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev later on Saturday.
In his opening remarks released by the Kremlin, Medvedev noted with satisfaction that Russian-Armenian relations is a “more comfortable” subject for Moscow than its gas dealings with Ukraine. He described Armenia as a “reliable strategic partner of Russia.”
“I think Armenia’s example is a really good example,” replied Sarkisian. “I said today and will repeat now that despite the fact that the price of gas [for Armenia] has been raised in the last two or three years, our gas consumption has increased twofold. We have no problems, and God willing, this will remain the case.”
Armenia currently pays $110 per thousand cubic meters of Russian gas it imports via neighboring Georgia. Under an agreement signed by the Armenian government with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly in September, the price will rise to $154 per thousand cubic from next April and on to $200 a year later. That tariff will still be well below the prices which are paid by European Union countries and which the Russia’s want to set for Ukraine.
Gazprom charged Armenia only $55 until an April 2006 agreement with Yerevan that left it in control of more Armenian energy assets. The controversial swap deal allowed the Armenian government to keep the gas price for local households and corporate consumers.
Use of natural has grown dramatically in Armenia over the past decade parallel to the reconstruction of the country’s gas distribution infrastructure, which had fallen into disrepair following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gazprom has a controlling share in the company that owns that infrastructure.