Georgian energy minister meets Gazprom CEO for second time to devise gas trade scheme

Georgian energy minister meets Gazprom CEO for second time to devise gas trade scheme
By bne IntelliNews October 28, 2015

Georgia's Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze met Alexey Miller, the CEO of Russia's state monopoly Gazprom, in Milan on October 26 to discuss extending the existing agreement on transit gas to Armenia and "other technical issues".

"We also discussed the terms and conditions for the supply of additional volumes of gas," Kaladze told media.

This is the second meeting between Kaladze and Miller in the last month. Kaladze's statements in early October about the need to import additional gas from Gazprom have sparked controversy, with opposition voices criticising the government of endangering Georgia's relation with its main gas provider, Azerbaijan. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili travelled to Baku on an unplanned visit, and met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev around the same time, reportedly to reassure Baku of Tbilisi's continued interest.

However, weeks later, Kaladze insisted on the need to diversify Georgia's gas suppliers, and prepared a timeline of the country's gas imports from Russia to prove that Tbilisi imported more gas from its northern neighbour during previous administrations. Kaladze added that Georgia needs an additional source of gas at least until 2019, when Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II project is due to come on stream, to cope with the increase in the demand for electricity.

Meanwhile, Georgia's former prime minister and billionaire businessman, Bidzina Ivanishvili, told media on October 27 that he was also involved in negotiations aimed at diversifying the country's gas supply to include Russia and potentially Iran.

"I do not see anything bad in the fact that the Georgian market may possibly be diversified and businesses may be given the possibility to buy gas from wherever they want...The entire Europe is being supplied with Russian gas today and there is no crime if Georgia buys the Russian gas," he said.

Russia provides less than 3% of Georgia's gas needs at the moment, the majority coming from a 10% transit fee over the North-South pipeline that transports gas to neighbouring Armenia.