Armenia Won’t Tell Tehran The Truth

08 July 06

Sometimes the impression is that Armenia itself does not know what
to sell to Russia and what not to sell. More exactly, it knows it
cannot sell anything. It simply does not know what Russia would like
to have. The situation is worrying, but as it is accepted to say,
it is not a fact, it is more than a fact, it is the reality. With
regard to the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline we deal with the same reality.

Russia announced about its likelihood to buy the gas pipeline several
days ago. It is clear that if they announce about their likelihood,
they make efforts to fulfill their intention. What is an effort in
this direction if not negotiations with the initiators of the gas
pipeline? The Iranian Deputy Ambassador to Armenia announced several
weeks ago in Yerevan that his country is not aware of the possibility
of participation of a third country to the gas pipeline. It means that
Gazprom makes efforts to negotiate with Armenia only. For its part,
this means that only the section of the pipeline running through
Armenia is concerned. Perhaps Gazprom does not need more because for
absolute influence it is enough to have the Armenian section. After
all Armenia needs the pipeline more, and if the prospect of a transit
pipeline is concerned, the section of the pipeline running through
Armenia is sufficient to get complete influence.

It is interesting that the Armenian party did not announce officially
about negotiation with the Russians but some officials, nevertheless,
hinted at it. Both the defense minister and the foreign minister spoke
about it. Serge Sargsyan said there are interesting developments,
and Vardan Oskanyan said funding of the construction of the Armenian
section of the pipeline is considered. It is clear that the Russians
would not give the money for nothing, if they would give it at all.

In this situation a logical question occurs why official Yerevan
avoids announcing about negotiations with Gazprom for the Iran-Armenia
pipeline. In addition, Armenian officials have to make hints at
negotiations, while Russia regularly reports on the negotiation and
agreement to buy the pipeline.

In other words, evidently Yerevan avoids public speeches on this
topic. The reason is clear. Several months ago, when the Iranian
foreign minister Manuchehr Mottaki was visiting Yerevan, he and Vardan
Oskanyan announced that participation of a third party to the pipeline
requires the agreement of both Iran and Armenia. In the meantime,
official Iran states that they are unaware of a Russian-Armenian
negotiation. On the contrary, the Russians inform that the negotiation
is underway and there is already agreement. Hence, Yerevan negotiates
with Moscow and fails to inform Tehran about the negotiation despite
the agreement. In any case, this is not proper. They sell it with
one hand and take an oath with the other not to sell it.

In the meantime, this question is rather important for Iran. Russia’s
engagement in the project of the pipeline neutralizes Iran’s prospect
to have an influence over regional energy projects. This might be the
reason why the pipeline has appeared on the agenda of the Iran-Armenia
relations over the past few months, and already official Iran is not
satisfied with the assertions of the high-ranking Armenian officials
that the pipeline is not for sale.

Another question is what Robert Kocharyan achieved during his Iranian
visit. The president’s visit had been planned long ago but Armenia was
said to avoid it. And if it took place, it means that either Yerevan
has decided what to say and how to settle the problem with Iran or
Tehran has made an ultimatum and Robert Kocharyan had no way but to go.

There were no details on the pipeline in the statements made
during the president’s visit. Moreover, it was not touched upon in
public statements either. On the other hand, there is a diplomatic
nuance: language is for hiding thoughts. It is possible that high
evaluations of the Iran-Armenia partnership hid the high reefs of this
partnership. The presidents of the two countries announced, however,
that there are no unsettled questions between Armenia and Iran. If
frankness prevails over diplomacy in this statement, it means Robert
Kocharyan managed to settle the problem of the pipeline in Iran. On
the other hand, if the problem with Iran is settled, sure enough a
problem with Russia occurred. In this sense it is highly doubtful that
Yerevan would step on this path to running into trouble with Russia,
especially with the elections drawing nearer. Consequently, Robert
Kocharyan reached an intermediate solution in Tehran in an effort
to temporize. It is interesting to know the cost, because everything
including time has its price.


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