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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 06:21 GMT
Azeri gas 'flowing into Georgia'
By Matthew Collin
BBC News, Georgia

Burning gas flame
Georgia depends heavily on Russia for its natural gas supplies
Officials in Georgia say the country is starting to take gas from neighbouring Azerbaijan in a deal it hopes will reduce its reliance on Russian gas.

The Russian state backed company, Gazprom, doubled the price of the gas it sells to Georgia at the start of this year.

It also made other former Soviet republics pay more for its gas.

But Georgia said the move was another attempt by Russia to undermine the country's pro-Western government.

Georgia has been urgently seeking alternative supplies since Gazprom announced it was doubling the price for a second consecutive year.

The Georgian minister for economic development, Giorgi Arveladze, said the country had begun to receive gas from its energy rich neighbour, Azerbaijan.

But officials in Azerbaijan have been reported as saying that the gas supplies won't start arriving in Georgia until Friday 12 January.

Georgian ministers have said have said that Azerbaijan is supplying the gas at around half the Russian price. But initially at least, this is only a three-month deal and it only represents a small percentage of the gas that Georgia needs for the whole year.

Continuing crisis

Georgia also expects to receive gas from a huge new deposit in the Caspian Sea, but supplies have not started due to technical problems.

Georgia originally refused to pay the new Russian price. It believes Moscow is trying to punish the country for its strongly pro-Western direction.

Russia has banned certain Georgian imports and cut transport links amid the continuing crisis in relations between the two countries.

But when Georgia failed to secure alternative sources of gas it had to make a deal with Gazprom to ensure supplies for the winter.

Russia is still the country's main provider of gas, but Georgia does not see Moscow as a reliable partner and will continue to look elsewhere for its energy.


SEE ALSO
Georgia 'agrees Russia gas bill'
22 Dec 06 |  Business
Country profile: Georgia
13 Nov 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Azerbaijan
10 Dec 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Azerbaijan
26 Nov 06 |  Country profiles

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