PM Irakli Garibashvili said on October 12 that Tbilisi’s relations with Baku will remain “friendly and strategic” and dismissed talk of “diversification, replacement of Azerbaijani gas” supplies as “utterly absurd”.
Georgian Energy Ministry said late last week that Tbilisi was open for talks with Gazprom on possible gas supplies for private entities in Georgia in order to, as Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze and his deputy put it, “diversify” energy supplies for the country. Kaladze, who met Gazprom chief executive in Brussels in late September, reiterated on October 12 that private entities might be interested in purchasing Russian gas if the price is acceptable.
Georgia receives most of its gas supplies from Azerbaijan; it also receives, as a transit fee, 10% of gas shipped by Russia to Armenia through a pipeline running via Georgia.
According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, the country consumed total of 2.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2014 of which only 200 million cubic meters were from Gazprom, supplied to Georgia as a transit fee, and the rest came from Azerbaijan. Gazprom puts the figure of its supplied gas to Georgia in 2014 at 300 million cubic meters.
After the Georgian Energy Minister spoke about possible gas supplies from Gazprom last week, PM Garibashvili made a brief and unannounced visit to Baku on October 10, where he met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, triggering speculation in Tbilisi that the surprise visit aimed at mending ties after potential fallout caused by Tbilisi’s suggestions over Gazprom gas supplies.
“It was shameful that [the PM] had to hastily visit [Baku] in order to put right what was messed up in previous days,” said Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats (FD).
FD lawmakers have called on the Energy Minister to appear before MPs to clarify the situation and explain why there is a need for Russian gas when Georgia already has stable supplier from Azerbaijan.
Opposition lawmaker from UNM party, Zurab Melikishvili, said: “Georgia is supplied for years already with stable and cheap natural gas from Azerbaijan. There is no problem of increasing supply if there is a demand for additional gas, but they still continue talks with Gazprom, which is damaging Georgia’s interests.”
President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s newly appointed political adviser, Pikria Chikhradze, voiced similar position and said on October 12, that Georgia was not in need of any “diversification” of gas supplies at this stage, especially when it has to do with Russia’s “political weapon” Gazprom.
PM Garibashvili told journalists on October 12, that he visited Baku for “a routine, working, friendly meeting with President Aliyev.”
He said that President Aliyev will visit Tbilisi on November 6.
“We spoke about deepening our close, strategic and friendly relations,” Garibashvili said.
“No revision of relations with Azerbaijan whatsoever is planned – we have and we will have a very close, friendly and strategic relations with Azerbaijan. How can a politician even think about revising our relations with Azerbaijan? That’s utterly absurd,” the Georgian PM said.
“There are no talks on diversification, replacement of Azerbaijani gas whatsoever; that’s utterly absurd and irresponsible politicians should not mislead people,” he said.
In his comments, the PM did not address specifically the issue of talks with Gazprom on possible gas supplies.