Armenia is fully complying with an agreement to import natural gas from neighboring Iran, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said on Thursday, denying claims to the contrary made by Iranian officials.
Rasul Salmani, a top executive from Iran’s national gas exporting company, was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying late last week that the current volume of Iranian gas deliveries is well below the level defined by an Armenian-Iranian supply contract signed in 2004.
Under the terms of the “take-or-pay” agreement, Armenia was to buy 3 million cubic meters of gas a day by the end of this year. Only a third of that volume is now being pumped through a pipeline inaugurated by the two governments late last year. Salmani said the Iranian side could demand a compensation for the shortfall from Yerevan.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Movsisian dismissed the claims. He said the agreement also stipulates that Armenia is to receive the planned amount of Iranian gas only after being in a position to pay for it with large-scale electricity supplies. That will happen only after the construction of a third high-voltage transmission line linking the Armenian and Iranian power grids, he said.
“So there is no danger today of them taking actions against us,” Movsisian told RFE/RL. He said work on the line will start next year and take about 18 months.
The construction was originally due to get underway in 2008. The reasons for its delay are still not clear.
“It is necessary to solve the issue of constructing a third high-voltage transmission line within the shortest possible time,” Iran’s ambassador to Armenia, Seyed Ali Saghaiyan, said in an interview with the Yerevan daily “Azg” published on Wednesday. He complained that the Armenian government has yet to take “serious steps” in that direction.
Movsisian countered that the matter should not be taken out of the broader context of Armenian-Iranian energy cooperation. “It’s not just about the gas pipeline, it’s about the entire program,” he said. “The entire program is not yet over.”
The minister downplayed the problems hampering its implementation. “There is nothing extraordinary in our relations today,” he said. “Everything is going according to plan.”