By Ruben Meloyan
Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas monopoly, reportedly announced plans on Friday to buy an under-construction pipeline that will supply Iranian natural gas to Armenia.
The Prime-Tass news agency quoted the Gazprom vice-chairman, Aleksandr Ryazanov, as saying that the Russian giant wants to gain control over the pipeline to “boost the reliability” of its own gas deliveries to Armenia that are carried out via Georgia. The transit of Russian gas through Georgian territory is not reliable anymore, he claimed.
Gazprom had already been reported earlier this year to have secured ownership of the Iran-Armenia pipeline as part of a controversial settlement of its gas dispute with Yerevan. The information was initially confirmed by Gazprom but subsequently refuted by the Russian company and senior Armenian officials.
A senior Iranian diplomat said on June 13 that the Armenian government will have to secure Tehran’s consent if it indeed decides to sell the facility to the Russians. “There are no changes yet in the project,” said Ali Akbar Jokar, Iran’s deputy ambassador to Armenia.
Work on the first 40 kilometer section of the pipeline, financed from a $34 million Iranian loan, got underway late last year and is scheduled to be complete by next January. Armenian and Iranian officials say the construction is proceeding according to plan.