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Georgia resumes gas supply to breakaway region

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, January 26
After a half year pause Georgia resumed gas supply to its breakaway region South Ossetia on January 25.

The Georgian Energy Ministry had suspended gas transfer to South Ossetia after the August Russian invasion due to reported damage to the gas pipeline caused by the military action. This decision provoked a protest from the Russian and separatist South Ossetian authorities, which accused Georgia of “inhuman” behaviour and attempts to “take revenge for the lost war by freezing the peaceful South Ossetian population.” Georgia, in response, accused Moscow of a “campaign of demagogy” and of “politicizing” the issue.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a statement welcoming the resumption of the gas supply, saying that Moscow is “satisfied with the fact that finally common sense has won in Tbilisi and the people of South Ossetia and nearby Georgian regions now have the capacity to receive heat and energy in their homes.” The resumption of the gas supply was also noted by the OSCE in a special statement published on January 25. It underlined the positive role of the OSCE in resolving this issue. The OSCE Greek Chairmanship had sent its special envoy, Charalampos Christopoulos, to Tbilisi and Tskhinvali on January 12-13 to look into the matter. He was accompanied by an Austrian independent expert, who was tasked with assessing the technical aspects of the gas supply and the pipeline.

"I commend the parties for their constructive approach which made it possible to solve this urgent humanitarian problem," The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, said in the statement. "This demonstrates the vital role the OSCE plays in strengthening co-operation and working towards security and stability in the region," she added.

The de facto authorities of the separatist region confirmed the resumption of the gas supply to Tskhinvali. “We conducted negotiations with Itera-Georgia and signed an agreement to pay GEL 645 [USD 390] per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, and have already paid for January,” said the Director of the Energetika energy distribution company, which will distribute the gas in the breakaway region. He also noted that homes in Tskhinvali are not getting gas yet. The supply to apartments will be restored step by step after a check of the pipeline infrastructure to avoid possible accidents.

The gas network in the breakaway region is connected to Georgia’s main gas pipelines through the Agara-Tskhinvali pipeline, about 17 kilometres long. The Agara-Tskhinvali pipeline has not been operative since the August war; on August 8 the Georgian Gas Transportation Corporation, a daughter company of the state-owned Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, cut off gas supplies after a significant gas leak was detected in the pipe.

The damage to the pipe had occurred on the Georgian side of the South Ossetian administrative border, close to the village of Dirbi. The place where the pipe was damaged was “in an area where heavy trucks and tanks moved around during the conflict,” according to the OSCE report on the matter. Tbilisi had said it was ready to repair the damaged pipe as soon as security guarantees were provided to its workers, as the village of Dirbi is located in the area known to be a scene of continual provocations, often causing loss of life.