By Hrach Melkumian
The planned construction of a major gas pipeline running from Iran to Armenia will again be discussed by the two governments early this week, officials said on Monday.
A senior Armenian delegation led by Artashes Tumanian, chief of President Robert Kocharian’s staff, left for Tehran to attend a regular session of the Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation scheduled for December 10-11. It also includes Energy Minister Armen Movsisian, suggesting that the implementation of joint energy projects will be high on the meeting’s agenda.
The $125 million project to transport Iranian natural gas to Armenia and possibly other countries is the most far-reaching of them. Its implementation has been repeatedly delayed amid uncertainty over the sources of funding for the construction of the pipeline’s 40-kilometer section that would pass through southeastern Armenia.
The pipeline could also be used for exports of Turkmen gas to Armenia via Iran. Hence, Turkmenistan’s declared interest in its construction. Russian energy companies have also shown interest.
The Iranian ambassador to Armenia, Mohammad Farhad Koleini, was understood to stress the importance of Russian participation in the pipeline project when he said on Monday that Tehran and Yerevan should look into the Gazprom and ITERA giants’ “new regional strategy.” “We hope that they too will become involved as interested parties,” he said.
The Armenian-Iranian commission is also expected to discuss plans to build a major hydro-electric power plant on Arax river marking the border between the two countries as well as the broader bilateral economic ties. Iran is a major trading partner of Armenia.