By Michael Mainville
TBILISI (AFP) — Plans by Georgia to sell off at least part of a major gas pipeline from Russia are raising fears among both Georgians and Armenians that the strategically vital asset will fall into the hands of political foes.
Georgia’s parliament last month approved the lifting of a legal ban on the privatization of the North-South pipeline which runs from Russia to Armenia and was previously listed as a “strategic asset” that could not be sold.
Georgian officials insist that only a minority stake could be sold.
But the potential sale has nonetheless sparked concern among some in Georgia, who fear Russia could be a likely buyer, and in Armenia, who worry that archrival Azerbaijan could purchase a stake in the key supply route.
Its sale could exacerbate tensions in the volatile South Caucasus region, a crucial link in Western-backed efforts to ship oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, bypassing Russia.