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Tbilisi’s dream to be buried in AGRI pipe2011-06-08 16:23
It has been an ancient dream of official Tbilisi to take part in big infrastructural projects for transit of hydrocarbons. These dreams once came true with the construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Jeykhan main pipeline initiated at the time of Edward Shevarnadze. The project was meant to become the first swallow of a real transit boom. Yet, it was a swan song in the end. After Mikheil Saakashvili's arrival Georgia's political risks grew so high that Nabucco gas pipeline lobbied by Western Europe was abandoned as a draft. Presently, the regime aspires to AGRI, a new project.
Georgian energy minister Alexander Hetaguri stated today in Baku that AGRI pipeline project (Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector) may be implemented before similar projects implying Nabucco - totally stuck on the level of coordination of gas volumes to be transported. "This is an important project that can be fulfilled within a much shorter span of time than other gas pipeline projects like Nabucco in particular", - the Georgian minister remarked at a press conference adding that a tender for the feasibility study would be announced next month with the results to be presented this autumn.
Hetaguri's statements and the event itself were meant for the press, mainly. Yet, it is not totally clear whom he addressed and why. It is quite obvious that decision on construction of the main line will be taken by other people - outside Tbilisi. There is an impression the energy minister was holding a virtual talk with his Azerbaijani counterpart Natig Aliev. Basically, it's Baku to decide whether this transit project so crucial for Georgian economy will be approved or not.
Azerbaijan's reluctance to be bound by precise obligations to provide required amounts of blue fuel has practically buried Nabucco. The US and European lobby was of no use. It's been 9 years since the start of design works. And nothing else has been done ever since. Most probably, there will be nothing in the end. Georgian politicians realized that and are now redirecting their propaganda talent toward AGRI hoping that representatives of Eastern Europe will be luckier than the West led by the USA.
These hopes seem to be justified so far. At least, Vitaly Beglyarbekov, a member of AGRI LNG Co administration board, deputy vice president of State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) stated last week that all four participants of the projects - Baku, Tbilisi, Budapest and Bucharest - want immediate start of preparation of a feasibility study for the projected main line.
As we know, preparations for Nabucco were full of similar declarations too. Two years ago the capital of Turkey hosted signing of a multilateral agreement on construction of the gas line. Among the attendees were US Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza and Jose Manuel Barroso representig the European Commission. Yet, things haven't got forward an inch. Seeing common features between two projects, AGRI risks repeating the story of its Western European competitor.