The Armenian government is not worried about possible Azerbaijani ownership of a minority stake in a Georgian pipeline transporting Russian natural gas to Armenia, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said on Wednesday.
Georgia’s parliament last year removed the so-called North-South pipeline from a list of strategic state facilities not subject to privatization. The move raised fears in Yerevan that Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, which currently manages Georgia’s domestic gas distribution network, could acquire it to block the vital gas deliveries to Armenia.
Top SOCAR executives have repeatedly expressed an interest in such a takeover.
The Georgian government has made clear in recent months that it has no plans to sell a controlling share in the pipeline. Prime Minister Nika Gilauri repeated these assurances during a February 16 visit to Yerevan.
According to Movsisian, Gilauri told Armenian leaders that Tbilisi could only sell up to 25 percent of shares in the facility vital for Armenia. “Even if they are sold off, that will not affect the exploitation, management and management structure of the gas pipeline in any way,” he told the Armenian parliament. “Even if they are acquired by an Azerbaijani company, that will not affect its operations.”
According to the ARKA news agency, the minister added that the Armenian government has held “quite serious discussions” on the matter and might itself bid for a minority stake in the Georgian pipeline. He also stressed the fact that Armenia also receives gas from neighboring Iran through a pipeline built in late 2007.