President Giorgi Margvelashvili has formally asked the government to hold a session with his participation to discuss “situation in Georgia’s energy security and energy transit sector.”
In a letter to the government, chief of president’s administration asks the cabinet to consider including this topic in the agenda of next government session, which, it says, will also be attended by President Margvelashvili and secretary of the National Security Council Irine Imerlishvili.
The President’s request comes after Energy Minister, Kakha Kaladze, said that Georgia may seek additional gas supplies from Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, causing concerns of opposition parties.
Georgia receives most of its gas supplies from Azerbaijan; it also receives, as a transit fee, 10% of gas supplied by Russia to Armenia through a pipeline running via Georgia.
Georgian Energy Ministry said late last week that Tbilisi was open for talks with Gazprom on possible gas supplies for private entities in Georgia in order to, as Energy Minister Kaladze and his deputy put it, “diversify” energy supplies for the country. Kaladze, who met Gazprom chief executive in Brussels in late September, reiterated in separate remarks for number of times since then that private entities might be interested in purchasing Russian gas if the price is acceptable.
After the Georgian Energy Minister spoke about possible gas supplies from Gazprom last week, PM Garibashvili made a brief and unannounced visit to Baku on October 10, where he met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, triggering speculation in Tbilisi that the surprise visit aimed at mending ties after potential fallout caused by Tbilisi’s suggestions over Gazprom gas supplies.
PM Garibashvili has strongly denied speculation and said on October 12 that Tbilisi’s relations with Baku will remain “friendly and strategic” and dismissed talk of “diversification, replacement of Azerbaijani gas” supplies as “utterly absurd”.
The PM reiterated remarks when he again spoke about the issue at a government session on October 13.
He also said that talks with Gazprom are of “technical” nature aimed at negotiating possible increase of transit of natural gas to Armenia via Georgia, which, he said, is in Tbilisi’s interest as it would result into more gas for Georgia as a transit fee.
Unlike the Energy Minister, PM Garibashvili did not mention need to diversify gas supplies or possibility of purchase of Russian gas by private entities in Georgia.
According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, the country consumed total of 2.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2014 of which only 200 million cubic meters were from Gazprom, supplied to Georgia as a transit fee, and the rest came from Azerbaijan. Gazprom puts the figure of its supplied gas to Georgia in 2014 at 300 million cubic meters.
This is the second time President Margvelashvili has requested the government to hold a session with his participation. The previous time, when he called for the cabinet session to discuss foreign policy related issues in November 2014, the request was snubbed by the government.