Outside interest in acquiring a share in the North-South gas pipeline that runs from Russia via Georgia to Armenia has long been a no-brainer. But, now, Armenia's arch-enemy, Azerbaijan, has raised its hand to bid for the stake.
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan told the government of Georgia to keep Azerbaijan in mind if Tbilisi decides to sell the pipeline in part or in whole, APA news agency reported on November 13. According to earlier media reports, Azerbaijan offered Georgia $500 million for the pipeline.
The proposed sale has touched off protests from Yerevan, which fears that Azerbaijan could take over the vital gas supply line and turn off the tap for Armenia. Some Armenian economists and politicians called on Armenian authorities to raise cash to top the Azerbaijani bid.
The plans have also faced opposition within Georgia. Critics at home fear that Russia’s Gazprom may purchase the line and use it to exert pressure on Tbilisi.
To allay both Armenian and domestic concerns, Tbilisi said it would only sell a minority share, a maximum of 15 percent.