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PM says strategic cooperation with SOCAR is of the utmost importance

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 15
“I would like to emphasize that strategic cooperation with the SOCAR Company is of utmost significance for us,” Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, said during a meeting with SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev late on January 13.

According to the government administration, the parties discussed issues within the framework of the existing partnership and agreed to deepen and expand strategic cooperation between Georgia and SOCAR.

“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Georgia. In spite of recent political speculations, I would like to state that strategic cooperation with SOCAR is of the utmost importance, and we are ready to discuss deepening future cooperation. Azerbaijan is Georgia’s friend, and this is the main thing,” the PM said.

According to official information, the conversation during the meeting referred to the technical problems existing in terms of balancing the seasonal provision of natural gas.

“Both pipelines that provide Georgia with natural gas function very actively at the moment but they cannot supply Georgia with enough gas in winter. We plan to conduct some measures that will enable us to improve the deficit,” Kvirikashvili said.

“The SOCAR Company has also expressed interest in the gas storage project that is planned to be launched in 2016. The parties have also stressed significance of the Shah Deniz second phase,” the governmental administration reported.

Prior to the meeting, the Georgian PM and the Energy Minister conversed with the SOCAR leadership behind closed doors. After the meeting, Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze said that it was impossible in 2016 for Georgia to receive additional gas from Azerbaijan, as through the current pipelines it would be impossible. To counter the deficit, the Minister mentioned the possibility of a Russian gas supply.

The opposition says that the Government might be in confidential negotiations with Gazprom that will result in Georgia becoming dependent on Russian gas.

“There is no doubt that the negotiations with Gazprom serve someone’s private interests,” the leader of the Free Democrats, Aleksi Petriashvili, said.

According to Petriashvili, the negotiations may create serious threats to Georgia’s energy independence. “The negotiations seem to be especially dangerous in the light of the Azerbaijani side stating that they have no problem with providing Georgia with more gas,” Petriashvili said.

The Free Democrats call on the Georgian government and its leadership not to waste the gains of Georgia and the whole region or damage strategic development.

SOCAR representatives stated that they are ready to task experts to study how much additional gas is required for Georgia, and then find ways as to how to meet the demand.

SOCAR exported 1.25 billion cubic meters of gas to Georgia in January-November 2015.

SOCAR delivers its own gas to Georgia via a pipeline that runs through Azerbaijan’s Gazakh district. The gas pumping capacity via this pipeline nears three billion cubic meters per year.

Azerbaijan is the main gas supplier to Georgia with a share of 77.9 percent of the total volume of gas imports of the country, – an Azerbaijani media outlet - has reported.

About 686 million cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas came as part of the agreement in frames of the BP-operated South Caucasus Pipeline, which transports gas from Shah Deniz offshore field in the Caspian Sea to Turkey via Georgia. A total of 1.21 billion cubic meters were imported as part of a separate deal with Azerbaijan.

Georgia received 267.7 million cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2014, of which 206.1 million was a transit fee, which grants Georgia 10% of all Russian gas transited to Armenia through the North-South Pipeline. Georgia also imported 61.6 million cubic meters of Russian gas in 2014.