WHAT WILL BE THE INTEREST OF ARMENIA FROM THE IRANIAN-ARMENIAN NATURAL GAS PIPELINE?
Armenia seeks alternative energy sources so as to provide needed energy on the conditions that Armenian Nuclear Power Station (ANPS) will be closed. Armenia, a thorough land country which has not any exit to the sea, is a small one which should do its communications with the external world via Turkey, Georgia and Iran. Since the borders with Georgia could not meet its necessities, Armenia, the borders of whom with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed because of the occupation of Montenegro and ungrounded genocide assertions, starting from the recent times, has started to develop her relationships with Iran, with whom she has not come across with any problem regarding the border and transportation. Under the content of the formal visit of Yerevan, which has been discussed for nearly 12 years between Iran and Armenia and made by Iranian Energy Minister Bican Zangene, recent natural gas line, decided to be started with the agreement signed on the 13th of May, 2004, has stuck on the agenda as a new example to the developing Iranian-Armenian relations. This project, the workings of which were started in 1992, the route of which was determined by the intergovernmental agreement signed in 1995 by two countries, the discussion of which has been done since 1995 and also which is quite significant from the respect of both energy and strategy, seems to affect some balances in the regions. Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, China and even European Union are closely interested in the line. Line will have a capacity to transfer 1 billion cubic metre(m³) natural gas per year when it will be completed; this amount will reach the gas amount of Russian “Gazprom” and “Itera” Companies which provide natural gas to Armenia via Georgia today. A greater project, the preparation works of which still continue, is to construct a common hydroelectric power station on the Aras River which is in the border.Armenian Government, for the power station, the cost of which is expected to be 155-160 million $, applied to the Iranian Government so as to persuade Iran to undertake to finance the part of the project Armenia is responsible to pay, in payment for the forthcoming revenue. For the Armenian economy, this project has great importance for it will provide serious energy power to the southern part of the country. While Armenia and Iran are stating that they have started common workings regarding electricity power-station operating with wind energy and the other alternative sources, the year of 2004 promises that it will be the one in which an energy axis will be established between Armenia and Iran. On the other hand, in Caucasia, which has been an instable and chaotic region since before, Armenia, accepted as the closest and the most sound allied of Russia, also worries that coming strategically nearer with Iran might create problems in bilateral relations with Moscow. With this project, planned to be reached to the EU lands via Georgia and Ukraine in the future, the natural gas amount Iran will export will lead to the 60 billion cubic metre (m³). Process regarding the Iranian-Armenian natural gas pipeline started after Yerevan, who is eager to find alternative energy resource for itself because of the continuing sabotages to the line transporting Russian natural gas from Georgia to Armenia in 1994, signed an agreement with Tehran in 1995 regarding the construction of natural gas pipe line. After authorities in Moscow recognized that the diameter of pipeline is too large, President Mihail Kasyanov, with rigid statements, stated President of Armenia Robert Kocarian that Armenian side betrayed the Russian side in action and accused him of changing the first plan related to the pipe line. Energy cooperation between Iran and Armenia was continuosly criticized by some parts in Russian , and it was observed in Russian press that the comments of Yerevan’s applying the project against the Russian gas were stated. From the other side, European Union, opponent of the establishment of Armenian-Iranian-Russian Natural Gas Consortium until the year of 2000, supplied money for the construction of Armenian-Iranian Natural Gas Pipeline. By the help of this incident, not only Europe but also Turkmenistan and Ukraine will also be independent from Russia regarding energy. Moreover, after the natural gas pipeline had been put into action, Yerevan stated EU that it would close Armenian Atomic Power-Station still operated by the Russian “Tek Energy Systems Inc.”. EU had demanded from Armenia for a long time to close the nuclear power-station which provided 40 % of the electricity necessity of the country and which had been using the Russian nuclear fuel. In this respect, the incidents related to the situation are important for both Armenia and Russia since it will decrease the dependency to Russia regarding energy. This draws the attention to Iran’s role of affecting balances upon the economical and geographical problems in Caucasia region. Russian government authorities and politicians do not hide their fears and worries related to the fact that Armenia’s possible future EU membership will affect the system and activities of energy field of the country. Because of this reason, so as to prevent these kinds of projects from becoming real, it was waited that Russia would do some interferences. However, Russia, aware of the affecting level of all these incidents in the region, postponing its economical profits so as to protect its penetration in the region, expects that the construction of Iranian-Armenian Natural Gas Pipeline will give her a chance to seperate the southern Caucasian countries from each other and to make the natural gas politics of Moscow more flexible in the region. Therefore, Russia has entered into the tactics of being on the side of the project. Since the geopolitical situation of Moscow has become worse in whole southern Caucasia, primarily in Georgia, who has started to enter under the affect of the USA day by day, Russia is also aware of the situation that natural gas is a powerful oppression tool towards Tbilisi, who is dependent on the electrical energy coming from Russia and Armenia. Today Russia has not any tool to oppress Tbilisi in energy field. Moscow will find a greater chance to oppress Georgia on the conditions that the natural gas pipeline is constructed. Because of this reason, Russian side has started to be interested closely in the construction of natural gas pipeline While the fact that the investments’ being shared among Armenian, Russian and Iranian companies will comfort the situation of each country, Karen Karapetyan, the president of Armrosgazprom (the 45% of the shares belongs to the Gazprom) has stated his demand to participate in the construction of the natural gas pipeline. On the other hand, the unexpected visit of Prime Minister of Ukraine to Russia and his discussion with Putin in the 15th of May; two days later Putin’s statement in which he mentioned Iran as “the unchanged and eternal allied of Russia” during his discussion with Harazzi, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who came Russia for a formal visit and that the news of the agreement, signed between Iran and Armenia, was published two days after Armenian Prime Minister Kocarian’s visit of Moscow are considered as the attractive incidents. Up to now, Armenia, accepted as the most reliable allied of Russia in southern Caucasian, did what the U.S. could not achieved and contributed to the establishment of an alternative route instead of Russian route for the natural gas export from the region to the west; however, she could not recognized that Russia and Iran were pursuing their own profits which were not always appropriate to the Armenian profits. This time, the duty to be a figurant between Russia, who tries to protect its former penetration and to take all the incidents which will affect the balances in the region under control, and Iran, who pursues politics so as to materialize her eternal target on the road to be a regional power and to land its drawee in an awkward position by using Armenia who has problems with Azerbeijan due to the southern Azerbeijan ( eg. by giving support regarding the upper Montenegro), is the responsibility of Armenia . While Armenia, in political and economical dead-end resulting from the hostile politics running towards Turkey and Armenia due to the so-called genocide assertions and upper Montenegro problem, is seeking other way-outs, it is also seemed that she will not be able to escape from being pawn of the greater politics.