Elkhan Alasgarov, Ph.D., head of the Baku Network expert council
Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 13
The decline in energy prices on the world markets has become a serious test for developing Azerbaijani economy. Azerbaijan is doing everything possible to mitigate the negative trends, by continuing the perspective international economic projects, social measures and initiating the large-scale reforms in the country. The concrete actions are taken to develop the business sphere, non-oil sector of Azerbaijan.
In current conditions, certain external forces are trying to derive profit from the current situation and count on complication of Azerbaijan's relations with its neighbors. One of them is Georgia. In difficult economic situation and energy crisis in Georgia, Azerbaijan, as a loyal friend and neighbor, provided this country with gas, oil products, loans.
"The Georgian people will never forget this action," former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said.
The former president made this statement at the opening ceremony of the Turkish section of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Kars railway July 24, 2008.
This was the period when two weeks left before the events in Tskhinvali. Neighboring Georgia confronted with Russia in "hot August of 2008" and experienced all consequences of the war in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Despite the existing threats, Azerbaijan remained true to its alliance. It supported Tbilisi politically and economically.
"The then Georgian leader called Azerbaijan "guarantor of independence" of the country, and swore to Azerbaijanis in the "eternal friendship" of the Georgian people. Now, all these statements, devalued by some Georgian politicians to the level of talks with Baku, about "filling the deficit of natural gas", which allegedly lacks in Georgia," said Gia Volsky, Georgian parliament's deputy to the media.
During his speech in connection with the ongoing Azerbaijani-Georgian negotiations on energy issues in Tbilisi he stated that in Azerbaijan everybody knows that the problem is not in "filling of gas deficit", but in the Gazprom's intentions to begin supplying gas to its ally Armenia on the first phase, not the second. To the extent possible, to displace the Azerbaijani gas from Georgia, to cover projects and so on.
The issue is quite serious and under conditions of growing economic problems it would be naïve to call the entire negotiating process "filling the deficit".
It all began in late September of the last year in Brussels, when a "secret" meeting of Kakha Kaladze with the Chairman of the Board of "Gazprom" Alexey Miller was held. It is known that the Russian "Gazprom" desperately looking for markets for its gas, which massively refused in Europe and stubbornly refuses to buy China.
In Brussels, the Georgian side itself raised the issue of increasing the supply of Russian gas through the gas pipeline from Georgia to Armenia.
"Filling the deficit by Georgia" for Armenia is clearly harmful for Azerbaijan, may be on a smaller scale, as the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border.
It may be cost-effective, but it is a politically adventurous option for Tbilisi, which with this project causes doubt of the "guarantor of independence" in sincerity of its strategic ally.