U.S. has no objections to Russian plans to transport gas through Armenia

Apr 21, 1999 02:00 AM

Richard Morningstar, the U.S. administration's top advisor for Caspian energy issues, has said that Washington had no objections to Russian plans to transport natural gas through Georgia and Armenia.
Indeed, for the sake of regional security, Armenia should not be kept out of oil and gas transport projects, he added.
Morningstar further speculated that Turkmen gas pumped through a planned pipeline across the Caspian Sea might cross Armenian territory on its way to Turkey but remarked that the conditions were not yet right for Yerevan to participate in the trans-Caspian project.

Most would-be pipeline builders have not considered Armenia as a transit route for Caspian oil and gas; neighbouring Azerbaijan, the source of much of the oil that might flow through such pipelines, is still technically at war with Armenia though a shaky cease-fire has been in place since 1994. However, Russia -- which some have accused of arming Yerevan in its war with Baku over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory -- isinterested in seeing at least one pipeline built on Armenian soil.

In late August of 1997, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom set up a joint venture with the Armenian government and a partner, the international energy company Itera, for work on a pipeline through Armenia. The partners hoped to use such a pipeline for shipments of gas onward to Turkey as well as deliveries to Armenia, though it is not clear whether the partners wanted to upgrade existing lines or construct a new one. The joint venture, called Armrosgazprom in Russia and Hairusgasard in Armenia, is split 45% to Gazprom, 45% to Armenia's Energy Ministry and 10% to Itera.

The current status of the venture's work is not clear. With regard to shipments to Turkey, Gazprom has of late focused more on the Blue Stream project, which provides for gas to be pumped through an underwater pipeline across the Black Sea, than on the Armenian option.

In any case, sending gas through Armenia to Turkey could prove difficult for Russia. Turkey has not yet given up its economic blockade against Armenia, and relations between Yerevan and Ankara are still strained. However, Armenian officials said last year that shipments of gas to Turkey through Armenia would probably not pose problems for either side. They noted that Armenia is obliged, as a signatory to the European Energy Charter, to allow transit of fuels through its territory to any third country, even Turkey.

Source: NewsBase
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