Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Between Armenia-Iran: Is West’s Proxy Actor Stepping Out of Its Role?

Similar Posts

This post is also available in: Türkçe Русский

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan went to Tehran and held several important talks immediately after the trilateral meeting in Sochi, where he met with the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan. During these talks on November 1, 2022, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Armenia and Iran in the field of energy.

According to the memorandum signed at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, the natural gas and electricity swap agreement between the two states will be extended until 2030. Deputy Oil Minister of Iran Majid Cegeni explained this development by stating that Iran is currently exporting one million cubic meters of natural gas per day to Armenia, and that gas exports will be doubled with the new agreement.[1]

As those familiar with the matter may already know, according to the energy agreement signed between Armenia and Iran in 2004 and put into effect, natural gas and electricity exchange between two states was envisioned. In accordance with the swap method in the agreement, Armenia was supposed to buy natural gas from Iran, and to export electricity to Iran in return. This agreement was planned to be valid for a period of twenty years. The signing of a new agreement during Pashinyan’s visit to Tehran, before the expiry of the twenty-year term of the said agreement, strikes the attention regarding both its timing and its provisions, as well as regional and global conjunctural conditions.

When this memorandum of understanding, which should be examined both technically and politically, is evaluated in terms of energy need and supply, we know as a fact that Armenia is a country deprived of natural gas deposits and that Iran has these resources. However, Iran is not the only country that supplies natural gas for Armenia. Russia stands as a more reasonable supplier than Iran in terms of both its natural gas capacity and the cost of the product. This is because the price of Russian natural gas is cheaper than that of Iran. However, it should be noted that there is no swap method applicable to the supply of Russian natural gas.

Although the swap method seems to be a more reasonable choice in terms of rationality  and cost-benefit analysis, it does not seem very realistic considering Armenia’s capacity and potential when it comes to electricity. It is also noteworthy that Iran will double its natural gas exports to Armenia. Thus, although Yerevan’s energy dependence on Russia will decrease, it can be said that Iran will be more active in Armenia. The fact that Pashinyan went to Tehran right after the Sochi Summit hosted by the Russian President Vladimir Putin strengthens this possibility.

The Yerevan administration’s policy of breaking the influence of Russia and getting closer to the West has resulted in the absence of expected support from Moscow during the second Karabakh War. In the post-war period, both the diplomatic success of the administration of Azerbaijan and the positive course of Russia-Türkiye relations might have brought up different options for the Pashinyan administration, which has a revisionist foreign policy desire or vision. One of these different options is the willingness of Yerevan to make Tehran, which is considered an important actor in the geopolitics of the region, a more effective position in the game.

The situation seems more or less normal up to this point. However, considering Armenia’s relations with France and the United States (US), the issue becomes rather gray and open to discussion. It is well known that due to its foreign policy choices and moves in recent years, Armenia has taken a position in the Caucasus geopolitics as a proxy actor of the two Western states. In addition, it is a well-known fact that Iran is officially or unofficially considered as an enemy by the West, especially by the US. Thus, the question is clear: What will be the stance of Washington and Paris regarding Yerevan, which has indirectly improved its economic relations with Iran in a way that indirectly disables the sanctions, considering that Western states have imposed sanctions on Iran under the leadership of the United States?

Although this question is interpreted as predicting the future, the political consistency points to the need for Western states to review relations with Armenia. However, the extent to which President of France Emmanuel Macron and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi will allow this raises serious concerns. Moreover, it will be understood in the following days whether the “Armenian state’s relations and interests or the influence of Armenian diaspora” will be more decisive in the fate of the Armenians. However, there is a clear conclusion we get from this picture that although the West claims to act on certain values and principles in international politics, it is unlikely to give up on implementing its ambivalent and inconsistent policies. 

[1] “İran ile Ermenistan Enerji Alanında Mutabakat Zaptı İmzaladı”, Mehr News,, (Date of Accession: 03.11.2022).

Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK
ANKASAM Uluslararası İlişkiler Danışmanı Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK, lisans eğitimini Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde, yüksek lisans ve doktora eğitimini ise Gazi Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlamıştır. Günümüzde Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü öğretim üyesi olan Çelik’in başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, Türk Dünyası, güvenlik ve stratejidir.