By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian and Georgian governments have agreed to jointly investigate the whereabouts of $4 million which Tbilisi claims to have transferred to a Russian intermediary firm in payment of its energy debt to Armenia, Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian said on Thursday.
The debt resulted from past supplies of Armenian electricity to Georgia, apparently handled by the intermediary. Its repayment has been repeatedly delayed, and the Armenian side says the money has still not reached the Hayenergo national power grid. The issue was discussed during Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s official visit to Tbilisi earlier this week.
Georgian Energy Minister Nika Gilauri told reporters on Monday that his government has recently expedited the payment to the unidentified Russian middleman. “The Armenian colleagues did not object to [giving the money to] the Russian company, so they will have to clear the issue up with the Russian side,” he said. “We don’t consider ourselves debtors.”
But Khachatrian said the Armenian government does not want to look for the money single-handedly, indicating that the Russian company is not trustworthy. “The company from which we are to get our money turns out to be worth 500 dollars. So it will be very hard to get $4 million from them,” he said without elaborating.
“That is why we insisted on our demands and a joint commission was created to look at the agreement on the transfer of money to that private firm and to try to find a solution to the problem,” he added.
Armenia has exported electricity to Georgia, still suffering from power shortages, ever since overcoming a severe energy crisis in the mid-1990s. The supplies are mainly carried out in winter months.
The money in question is not part of Georgia’s separate $19.5 million “inter-state” debt to Armenia largely stemming from the loss of Armenian cargos transported through Georgian territory in the 1990s. Khachatrian said the Georgians’ are servicing the debt in accordance with a timetable approved by the two governments in the past. Markarian said on his return from Tbilisi on Tuesday that they have offered to repay it with Georgian state assets put up for privatization.
(Photolur photo: Vartan Khachatrian.)