A new Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, officially opened on March 19 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Armenian President Robert Kocharian, is emerging as a source of speculation about regional energy alliances. A trip to Armenia by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili two days after the pipeline’s opening has provided fuel for conjecture despite the official line that it was a ski vacation. Saakashvili’s spokesmen admit he met with Kocharian and that talks touched on the pipeline.
Later, the Georgian and Armenian foreign ministers, Gela Bezhuashvili and Vardan Oskanian, joined the discussions. The 140-kilometer pipeline is projected to supply Armenia with up to 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas per year until 2019, when that supply target is expected to rise to 2.3 bcm annually. Georgian officials have previously stated that Georgia will not need to import Iranian gas if supplies from the Baku-based Shah-Deniz pipeline, which crosses into Turkey via Georgia, remain adequate. However, the Islamic Republic provided emergency supplies during Georgia’s January 2006 gas crisis. At the time, the US reacted warily to the prospect of having its closest Caucasus ally, Georgia, forge any kind of enduring energy relationship with Iran. (EurasiaNet, April 12)