Armenia-Georgia: Energy, security issues high on neighbors’ bilateral agenda

Relations between Armenia and Georgia are being discussed in Yerevan today during meetings of visiting Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze with Armenian officials, including President Serzh Sargsyan.

Experts say that besides security issues, energy cooperation between Yerevan and Tbilisi is becoming one of the key issues of the bilateral agenda and is likely to feature prominently during the talks.

Georgia is going to host on April 11-13 a quadripartite meeting of the energy ministers of Russia, Armenia, Iran and Georgia. This was announced by Armenia’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Levon Yolyan on March 17.

The first such meeting was held in Yerevan in December last year, and it produced a memorandum of cooperation between the four countries. But the Tbilisi meeting may be notable for the fact that for the first time since the five-day Russo-Georgian war in 2008, a Russian official will visit the South Caucasus country. Experts believe that Armenia may become a facilitator of sorts for the resumption of the Georgian-Russian dialogue.

At the beginning of 2016, Russia and Georgia were in intensive talks for a revision of gas prices and terms for the supply and transit of natural gas to Armenia, but eventually, after failing to come to new terms, the parties left the transit price at the same level – 10 percent of the incoming gas. However, the parties can also cooperate in the field of electricity supplies.

An Armenia-Georgia high-voltage transmission line and a constant current substation are expected to be put into operation by 2018. Also that year, it is planned to commission the Iran-Armenia high-voltage transmission line. It appears Russia would like to join the circuit.

However, analysts believe that the top issue discussed during the Georgian diplomat’s visit to Yerevan will be the new relations between the two neighbors after Georgia’s specification of its Euro-Atlantic course and the strengthening of the Russian military base in Armenia.

The Georgian Security Council earlier this week recognized Russia as the main threat for Georgia. The United States and NATO have expressed support for Georgia. And it is noteworthy that Foreign Minister Janelidze is in Armenia after traveling to the United States where U.S. support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and “the unacceptability of Russian occupation” was reaffirmed.

Georgia recently changed the structure of its army and set up two groups, one of which, according to official information, is to confront the threat posed by the Russian military base in Armenia. It is not excluded that Georgia tries to receive guarantees from Armenia that the Russian base will not carry out actions against Georgia. The question is whether Armenia can give such guarantees.