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Georgia may resume gas delivery to South Ossetia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, January 8
The Russian Gazprom energy company has stated that Georgia is “ready” to start gas supplies to its breakaway region of South Ossetia on Monday. The Chief Executive of the company, Alexei Miller, has said that Gazprom has “just learned that Georgia is prepared to resume gas supplies to South Ossetia” during a conversation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Gas delivery to the breakaway region of Georgia was stopped after the August conflict. Tbilisi explained at the time that the pipeline had been damaged by Russian bomb attacks. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said while addressing the OSCE Ministerial Council on 2008 December that the Tbilisi’s move was “inhuman.”

On January 6, speaking to local journalists, Georgian Energy Minister Alexandre Khetaguri confirmed that gas delivery to South Ossetia “may be resumed” only after the restoration of the pipeline. The South Ossetian de facto authorities consider that Tbilisi has no reason to postpone the resumption of gas supplies to the separatist region because “the pipeline is already repaired.” “What more guarantees do they [Georgian side] need? We have already given written guarantees that the pipeline on the territory of South Ossetia has been fully repaired. The Georgian Government is just playing political games now,” stated the South Ossetian separatists’ “Minister for Post-Conflict Issues”, Boris Chochiev, on January 7.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry had published a statement on December 31 explaining its position. The statement said that the pipeline was damaged near the village of Dibri in the immediate vicinity of the breakaway region’s administrative border, which, it said, was “in the high risk zone.” “The Georgian side, however, began restoration works on this section of the pipeline, though being aware that examination of the full length of the pipeline would in any case be necessary for technical security reasons,” the Ministry said, adding that it was “immoral” to accuse Georgia of aggravating the humanitarian situation “given the Russian occupation of a considerable portion of Georgian territory… and ethnic cleansing, the mass expulsion of the local population. Russia’s accusation that Georgia, along with international organizations, has allegedly ignored Tskhinvali’s readiness to conduct an unbiased inspection of the pipeline can be seen as nothing but a vivid example of libel and cheap provocation. These allegations of Russia serve the sole purpose of misleading the international community and discrediting the Georgian side, as the issue of the region’s gas supply was posed from the very outset and in the most urgent manner by OSCE and the European Union as well as the Georgian side.”

During his meeting with the Gazprom Chief Executive, during which the gas dispute with Ukraine was primarily discussed, Vladimir Putin also asked Alexei Miller to brief him about the gas supply to Georgia. “How are we working with Georgian partners?” Putin asked him, in remarks aired by Russian television stations. “At present it's a normal working mode,” Miller responded. “In other words, you supply gas to Georgia? I understand that in general, the entire volume contracted by Georgia is being delivered to the republic,” Putin asked. “Yes,” Miller responded.