By Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian government on Thursday stopped short of explicitly denying reports that the ongoing work on a major natural gas pipeline from Iran will not be complete, as planned, by the end of this month.
Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said last month that the first 41-kilometer section of the pipeline passing through south-eastern Armenia will be inaugurated on December 20. His deputy Ara Simonian also spoke of a late December deadline for finishing the Iranian-funded construction.
But citing unnamed government sources, the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” reported on Thursday that the pipeline will not come on stream before next summer.
“The construction of the Iran-Armenia pipeline is proceeding according to plan, and everything will be done to complete it on time,” Lusine Harutiunian, a spokeswoman for the Armenian Energy Ministry told RFE/RL.
“We have said that it will be complete before the end of the year. Now everything is being done to meet that deadline,” she said.
But Harutiunian added that this will happen only “if the weather does not create surprises.” “We can’t tell you a concrete day at this point because it is now winter and working in such climate conditions is not easy,” she said without elaborating.
The under-construction pipeline was supposed to diversify the landlocked country’s energy resources that mainly come from Russia at present. But it is now widely expected to be incorporated into a Russian-controlled company that owns Armenia’s gas distribution network. The takeover would be part of a controversial deal that enabled Armenia to temporarily avoid a steep rise in the price of Russian gas in return for hading over more energy assets to Gazprom Russia’s state-run gas monopoly.