Prime Minister Karen Karapetian met with Iran’s and Turkmenistan’s ambassadors in Yerevan on Monday for talks that apparently focused on possible supplies of Turkmen natural gas to Armenia via Iran.
“The meeting focused on the possibilities and prospects for the development of trilateral cooperation in the field of energy,” the Armenian government said in a statement. “The interlocutors discussed issues related to supply of energy resources and joint projects.”
“We are interested in the development of Armenia-Iran-Turkmenistan trilateral economic cooperation,” Karapetian, who managed Armenia’s gas distribution network from 2001-2010, was quoted as saying.
Karapetian and Ambassadors Seyyed Kazem Sajjad of Iran and Muhammetniyaz Mashalov of Turkmenistan agreed to set up a joint working group that will look into the matter, added the statement.
Hydrocarbon-rich Turkmenistan was Armenia’s principal supplier of natural gas in the 1990s, until the Armenian government signed a long-term deal with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly. The latter currently supplies more than 80 percent of gas used in Armenia for power generation, heating and other purposes.
The rest of Armenian gas imports come from Iran through a pipeline built in 2008. The Armenian government announced last year plans to increase their volume. Armenian and Iranian energy officials discussed them in Tehran in late October and early November.
Visiting Yerevan on December 21, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said he and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian agreed in principle to increase Iranian gas supplies to Armenia.
Rouhani also announced that his country is ready to serve as a transit route for Armenia’s gas imports from Turkmenistan. He did not go into details.
Those imports could be complicated by a financial dispute between Turkmenistan and Iran that led the Turkmen government to suspend gas exports to the Islamic Republic on January 1. The Central Asian state claims that Iran owes it $2 billion for gas deliveries.
Armenia has long maintained cordial political relationships with both Iran and Turkmenistan. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted “the traditionally friendly character of Turkmen-Armenian relations” when he received Sarkisian in Ashgabat in April 2014.The Armenian leader said during that visit that they explored ways of “developing energy projects.”
In a joint statement, Berdimuhamedov and Sarkisian stressed the need to increase bilateral trade, which stood at a modest $22.7 million in 2013. Turkmen-Armenian trade has continued to shrink rapidly since then, however. According to Armenian government data, it plummeted by 30 percent to $11.2 million in January-November 2016.