On March 16, Gazprom Export signed a short-term contract with the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) regarding transit through Azerbaijan, TASS reported.
Gazprom Export said that scheduled maintenance work on the North Caucasus-Transcaucasus pipeline that passes through Georgia will take three weeks.
“After the completion of the repairs natural gas to Armenia will be transported via the previous route passing through the borders of Russia and Georgia,” Gazprom Export said.
Last year, Gazprom supplied over 2.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Armenia and the monthly amount of supplies increased by 9 percent in January 2021.
The news about the transit of Russian natural gas to Armenia via Azerbaijan comes four months after the two South Caucasus nations signed a Moscow-brokered ceasefire agreement mostly on Baku’s terms to put an end to a six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The terms of the deal also call for the unblocking of economic and transport links in the region.
An official of Gazprom Armenia, the Russian gas giant’s Yerevan-based subsidiary, said that “natural gas supplies to Armenia are carried out through the Karmir Kamurj-Sevkar-Berd gas pipeline.”
“We have no other comment on that. According to the report, the repairs will be done by the Russian Gazprom Export company. It would be better to contact them for details,” Mikael Harutiunian, of the company’s public relations department, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian’s office told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that they have never discussed such an issue and recommended turning to Gazprom for additional information.
Gazprom Export did not comment on the matter immediately, asking for a request for information to be submitted in writing.
Meanwhile, according to Azerbaijani media, Ibrahim Ahmadov, the head of SOCAR’s public relations department, explained that beginning on March 17 for a corresponding fee Russian natural gas will be transited via Azerbaijan to Georgia, from where it will reach Armenia. Ahmadov declined to reveal the size of the transit fee.
Yerevan-based energy expert Ara Marjanian thinks that Gazprom’s short-term contract with SOCAR may be a way for Russia to “test Azerbaijan.”
“I think this could be an interesting experience to test how ready Azerbaijan is for peaceful coexistence,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The expert said that if Azerbaijan disrupts the fulfillment of this short-term contract, Armenia will find itself in a difficult situation, although not critical. “Armenia receives not only Russian gas, but also has other supplies. Besides, Armenia has a certain amount of natural gas in underground storages. So, even if Azerbaijan suspends the implementation of this project, Armenia will cope with this situation,” Marjanian explained.