By Emil Danielyan
Armenia still has no immediate plans to import natural gas from neighboring Iran through a recently constructed pipeline, an official in Yerevan said on Wednesday.
“Armenia does not need Iranian gas yet,” Lusine Harutiunian, a spokeswoman for the Energy Ministry, told the Panorama.am news service. She said gas supplied by Russia fully meets the country’s needs and is not more expensive than Iranian gas.
The second and final Armenian section of the pipeline from Iran was officially inaugurated by President Serzh Sarkisian, his predecessor Robert Kocharian and the chairman of Russia’s Gazprom monopoly, Alexei Miller, last December. Armenian Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said at the time that the pipeline will undergo technical testing and be ready to pump Iranian gas within weeks. According to Harutiunian, it is now technically possible to start those supplies “at any moment.”
The bulk of the Iranian gas flowing to Armenia was always meant to be converted into electricity at local thermal-power plants that would then be exported to the Islamic Republic. One of those plants, owned by Gazprom, is currently under construction, while another is undergoing a multimillion-dollar reconstruction financed by a state-run Japanese bank. Armenian officials will not say whether this is the reason why Yerevan is in no rush to start Iranian gas deliveries.
Movsisian noted in December that the new pipeline would be for Armenia’s energy security in “force majeure situations.” The minister appeared to allude to a possible disruption of Armenian gas imports from Russia that are carried out via Georgia. The Iran-Armenia pipeline’s operational capacity of approximately 2.3 billion cubic meters of gas per annum essentially matches the annual volume of those imports.
The implementation of Armenian-Iranian economic projects was high on the agenda of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s March 13 visit to Yerevan. Mottaki said Yerevan and Tehran share “common interests” in the region and should deepen their political and economic ties.