By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia has not begun imports of natural gas from neighboring Iran yet despite claims to the contrary made by Iranian officials, an official in Yerevan said on Monday.
Rasoul Salmani, a top executive at the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC), was reported to say last week that it will start pumping gas through a newly built pipeline to Armenia on October 13. He said the Armenian side is already supplying electricity to Iran in payment for the gas deliveries.
Lusine Harutiunian, a spokeswoman for the Armenian Energy Ministry, denied this and said natural gas supplied by Russia via Georgia fully meets Armenia’s needs. “So there is no need to import additional gas,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL. She could not say when Iranian gas supplies could start.
Russian gas imports to Armenia totaled just over 2 billion cubic meters last year and are expected to stay at the same level this year. Officials have said the pipeline from Iran will have the capacity to pump at least 2.3 billion cubic meters per annum. With the Russian supplies meeting Armenia’s needs, the Yerevan authorities have always intended to convert Iranian gas into electricity that will be exported to the Islamic Republic.
President Serzh Sarkisian announced the completion of the pipeline’s second and final Armenian section in a wide-ranging foreign policy speech in early September. He touted it as a ground-breaking development that will significantly boost his country’s energy security.
“Thank God, the gas pipeline has already been built, and we can receive gas from the Islamic Republic of Iran as early as tomorrow,” Sarkisian said. “Work on enhancing the capacity of that pipeline will likely end in late October or early November.”