Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze, who met Russia’s Gazprom Export executives in Vienna on January 20, said that talks will continue as no deal has yet been reached on transit terms of Russian gas.
According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, Gazprom wants to pay cash as a transit fee instead of giving Georgia 10% of gas transported to Armenia via Georgia. Negotiations also involve possible purchase of additional gas from Gazprom, which will be required to fill the gap amid increasing gas consumption in Georgia, according to the Georgian Energy Ministry.
“Talks continue; we have not yet reached an agreement… I think we will probably conclude talks in the near future,” Kaladze told journalists on January 22.
He made the remarks after meeting EU ambassador to Georgia Janos Herman. Kaladze said he informed the EU diplomat about ongoing talks with Gazprom.
“Whether we call it ultimatum or demand, [the Russian side wants] to monetize transit fee,” he said, adding that the Georgian side wants to have such an arrangement which would give the country “the same result as we have had in the condition of receiving” gas as a transit fee.
Earlier this week Kaladze said in an interview with Rustavi 2 TV that during the talks Gazprom indicated it would secure gas supplies to Armenia from Iran if no agreement is reach with Georgia on new terms of transit. Kaladze said that although such a scenario is not immediately possible, it will become feasible after upgrading pipeline through which Armenia gets Iranian gas in exchange of electricity.
Talks with Gazprom over supply of additional gas volumes have become source of opposition’s criticism of the authorities as opponents fear that it may lead to Georgia’s energy dependence on Russia and affect negatively on ties with strategic partner Azerbaijan, which supplied about 88.5% of Georgia’s gas needs in 2015.
Lawmakers from the UNM opposition party have summoned the Energy Minister for number of times already to brief them on details of talks with Gazprom; Kaladze has snubbed their request for a hearing. UNM has also asked President Giorgi Margvelashvili to hold a session of the National Security Council over Georgia’s talks with Gazprom.
“I am ready to meet anyone interested in this issue… including in the Parliament. It is obvious that they [UNM MPs] want to stage a show [out of these hearings] – I am ready to participate in this show; I will let them know in advance when I have time and not when [MP Nugzar] Tsiklauri wakes up with hangover and wishes Kaladze to appear in the Parliament; I will decide when to come,” Kaladze said smiling, referring to UNM lawmaker, who has been calling on the Energy Minister to appear in the legislative body.