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Russian Gas Could Undermine the Georgian-Azerbaijani Friendship

In recent days, a scandal raised in Georgia over the talks between Georgian Ministry of Energy and "Gazprom". According to official information, the sides discussed the issues concerning the increase of the volumes of Russian gas transit to Armenia via Georgia, as well as the Russian gas supply to Georgian commercial operators and private companies.

The negotiations with the Russian company, however, was not unanimously accepted by Georgian opposition (by various opposition parties), the representatives of which have already made a number of different comments regarding this process. They are trying to present the negotiations with the Russian company as something being done for the personal interests of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili (according to the opposition Ivanishvili owns 1% of the shares of "Gazprom"). Moreover, some concerns are being circulated that such negotiations can become a serious blow to the "relations with trustful and strategic partner Azerbaijan", which holds monopoly on the Georgian gas market.

It is noteworthy, that Georgian oppositional media, as well as Azerbaijani media had their significant "contribution" in the raised scandal, by criticizing the idea of energy diversification and qualifying the negotiations as a "stab in the back". Taking into account the large public resonance over the issue, we cannot rule out that Azerbaijan activated its lobbying power, therefore some Georgian officials started identifying Georgian national interests with the Azerbaijani interests.

The concerns of the Azerbaijani side (and Georgian officials serving the interests of the Azerbaijan)  are not groundless. The Georgian authorities have begun to seriously work on the diversification of the energy sector, particularly trying to obtain alternative sources of gas supply. Georgia's Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Kakha Kaladze, who personally negotiated with "Gazprom" head Alexei Miller in Brussels, announced that although Azerbaijan is the main supplier of gas to Georgia, they would like to get more gas from Russia, which will compete with the Azerbaijani gas. Moreover, Kaladze also said that the ministry is working with the Iranian side in this direction, considering the export of Iranian gas to Georgia via Armenia. It is more than obvious that such a scenario is not in the interests of Azerbaijan, as on one hand Baku will have a certain amount of economic losses, on the other hand (this is probably the most important concern) its leverages on Georgia will weaken. 

As we can conclude from the reactions of the Georgian authorities on the criticism towards them, they have quite a firm decision concerning the diversification of gas imports. In case Georgian authorities get a competitive price in the result of negotiations with the Russian company, they will have an opportunity to make some changes in their regional policy, restoring to the balance of power in their relations with Azerbaijan.

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