Ongoing talks with Russia’s Gazprom focus on terms of transit of Russian gas to Armenia via Georgia, as well as on possible import of additional volumes of gas from Russia on top of what the country is receiving as a transit fee, Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze said.
He said that Gazprom insists on change of current arrangement through which Georgia receives as a transit fee 10% of gas delivered by Russia to Armenia via pipeline running through Georgia.
Gazprom now wants to pay cash as a transit fee, Kaladze said in an interview with Imedi TV on January 11.
He said that Russia has been insisting to monetize fee for past two years.
“Talks are ongoing on the price – we want to get the same benefit in case of [monetization],” Kaladze said.
“No agreement has been achieved yet,” he added.
Kaladze reiterated that due to Georgia’s increasing gas consumption, the country may need to import additional gas volumes from Russia on top of what it has been receiving as a transit fee.
It, however, does not mean, Kaladze said, that Georgia will reduce volume of gas imported from Azerbaijan, which is the main source of gas supplies for Georgia – over 87% of total gas consumption.
Georgia’s gas consumption increased by 19% year-on-year to 2.59 billion cubic meters in 2015, according to the Energy Minister.
In recent days Kaladze, who has met Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller for three times since September, has again become a target of opposition’s criticism.
The United National Movement (UNM) opposition party has accused Kaladze of “holding covert talks” with Gazprom, which “poses threat to country’s energy independence.” UNM MP Nugzar Tsiklauri said on January 11 that the party will launch street protest rallies if the authorities refuse to make public details of talks. UNM has asked the Energy Minister for number of times to appear in the Parliament before opposition lawmakers to brief them about ongoing talks.
“There is a very small part of the society, called the United National Movement, which tries to politicize these negotiations,” Kaladze said.
He said that talks aim at getting the best possible option for the country and added that it is impossible for Georgia to become dependent on Russian gas supplies as the country has long-term agreements with its major supplier and “strategic partner” Azerbaijan.
“We have long-term contracts with Azerbaijan [on gas supplies]; Azerbaijan is our strategic partner and its interests are not damaged in any way. Volume of gas received from Azerbaijan is not threatened,” the Georgian Energy Minister said, adding that Georgia was receiving additional gas volumes on top of the transit fee from Russia even when UNM was in power.
“Georgia cannot become dependent on Russian gas … Georgia’s gas supplies are diversified,” he said, adding that there might be a possibility to also receive gas from Iran sometime in the future “if the price is competitive.”
On January 12 Kaladze and several senior lawmakers from the ruling GD coalition met a group of Georgian commentators and analysts, who have been complaining that the ministry was not properly communicating its position with the public, fueling speculation over its talks with Gazprom.