By Emil Danielyan
Official Yerevan kept up on Wednesday the uncertainty surrounding its ongoing negotiations with Moscow over the announced doubling of the price of Russian natural gas supplied to Armenia.
Armenian officials said last week that the two governments will reach a final agreement on the issue before the entry into force of the new tariff, slated for April 1. However, a statement by President Robert Kocharian’s office indicated that the apparently difficult Russian-Armenian talks could continue into next month.
The statement followed Kocharian’s meeting with Energy Minister Armen Movsisian. “It was decided to continue negotiations with the Russian side over the price of gas and to make public a package of proposals to be formed upon their completion after agreeing it with the president,” it said without elaborating.
Armenian state regulators have already allowed the ARG national gas operator to raise the retail price of gas for households and industrial consumers by 50 percent and 100 percent respectively. Their March 10 decision was widely interpreted as a sign that the Russians will not after all agree to a less drastic price increase sought by the Armenian government.
Still, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who co-chairs a Russian-Armenian commission on economic cooperation, claimed last week that Yerevan may yet be able to negotiate more favorable terms. Sarkisian said he submitted unspecified “proposals” that have a good chance of being accepted by Russia’s state-run Gazprom gas monopoly. A Russian-Armenian agreement on the matter will be announced before April 1, he added.
The remarks were followed by a report in a leading Russian daily which claimed that Moscow has decided to “compensate” Armenia for the higher price by supplying it with Russian weapons at knockdown prices and even free of charge. A spokesman for Kocharian dismissed the report.
Kocharian, according to his press service, also discussed with Movsisian ways of diversifying Armenia’s energy resources which are being mainly imported from Russia at present. Movsisian was quoted as saying in that regard that work on the first Armenian section of a gas pipeline from Iran is proceeding according to plan and will be completed this fall. He also said that Armenia is currently building as many as 38 small hydroelectric plants that will meet 10 percent of its energy needs after they go into service within the next few years.
(Presidential press service photo)