December 4, 2013 - 18:27 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Tehran is ready to significantly increase the current modest volume of its natural gas supplies to neighboring Armenia, the Iranian envoy said, according to RFE/FL Armenian service.
“Iran can meet Armenia’s gas demand yet that depends on a deal between the two countries,” Mohammad Raiesi told a news conference on Tuesday, December 4. “It also requires relevant infrastructures. So the outcome depends on the Armenian authorities.”
Armenia began importing Iranian gas following the completion in late 2008 of a pipeline connecting the two countries. According to Armenian government data, Iranian gas deliveries totaled roughly 500 million cubic meters last year, compared with almost 2 billion cubic meters supplied by Russia’s Gazprom. The Iranian gas is mainly used for generating electricity exported to the Islamic Republic.
Some critics of the Armenian government have accused it of deliberately failing to use the pipeline to ease Armenia’s heavy dependence on Russian energy resources. They say that greater gas imports from Iran would have strengthened Yerevan’s hand in its dealings with Moscow.
Energy Minister Armen Movsisyan repeatedly said earlier this year that the import volumes remain modest because the Iranian gas price is higher than the one set by Gazprom. Raiesi, publicly denied these claims in June, however.
The Iranian ambassador declined to specify the exact gas tariff for Armenia, noting that Iran exports gas at international market prices.
A rise in Iranian gas supplies became even more unlikely after the government sold its remaining 20 percent share in Armenia’s gas distribution network to Gazprom on Monday. The $155 million deal was formalized in Yerevan during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit.
Raiesi insisted that the deal will not hamper further development of Armenian-Iranian energy cooperation. He said it does not run counter to close ties between the Armenian and Russian energy sectors.
Movsisyan and Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian met twice, in Tehran and Yerevan, last month in the space of two weeks. Official Iranian and Armenian sources reported few details of their talks.