An Armenian pro-government lawmaker accused Iranian officials on Wednesday of misleading Yerevan about potential prices of Iranian natural gas delivered to Armenia.
Mihran Hakobian, who represents the ruling Republican Party (HHK), cited statements by Iran’s current and former ambassadors in Yerevan that Iranian gas could cost Armenia less than Russian gas. “But as soon as you ask these people whether they would charge us even one [U.S.] cent less than Russia at the Armenian border you get a negative answer,” he complained in the parliament.
“This is one component of Iran’s regional policy,” Hakobian went on. “To put it bluntly, they let down the Armenian authorities and the Armenian state based on their regional policy components.”
It was not immediately clear whether Hakobian’s comments reflected only his personal view or the Armenian government’s position.
Armenia imports more than 80 percent of its gas from Russia at a discounted price currently set at $150 per thousand cubic meters. The remaining gas imports come from Iran under a swap arrangement involving supplies of Armenian electricity to the Islamic Republic.
Speaking in Yerevan in December 2013, the then Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Reisi seemed to imply that Tehran is ready to offer the Armenian side an even lower gas price. However, a senior executive of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) made clear in August last year that Yerevan would have to pay a price higher than the existing Russian tariff should it opt for additional gas supplies from Iran.
Energy Minister Ashot Manukian insisted on Wednesday that Russian gas is cheaper for Armenia than gas coming from Iran or other potential supplies. “I’ve just returned from [gas-rich] Turkmenistan,” he said during the government’s question-and-answer session in the parliament. “[Gas-related] discussions have long been underway and they will continue. I can report no progress at the moment because the prices offered to us are not competitive compared to the prices of gas imported by us.”
Edmon Marukian, a pro-Western opposition lawmaker, dismissed the minister’s assurances. He claimed that the government is not diversifying gas supplies to Armenia because the domestic gas distribution network is owned by Russia’s Gazprom energy giant. Marukian also pointed to the fact that Prime Minister Karen Karapetian used to run that network and hold senior positions in other Gazprom subsidiaries.
Karapetian discussed gas supplies with senior Iranian officials during an official visit to Tehran last October. He also reportedly explored the possibility of Armenian imports of gas from Turkmenistan via Iran.
The Armenian-Iranian gas-for-electricity arrangement is due to be significantly expanded after Armenia completes the ongoing construction of a third power transmission line connecting it to Iran. The $120 million line is expected to go on stream next year.