Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji says an overdue debt to neighboring Turkmenistan for imports of natural gas in the past will be settled for good.
Owji said on Tuesday that an administrative government that came to office in August will not hesitate to settle the gas debt dispute with Turkmenistan unlike a previous administration which sought to delay the payment.
“Luckily we had good talks for settling the debt to Turkmenistan based on preparations we had carried out,” said Owji after meeting a senior delegation from Turkmenistan led by the country’s foreign minister Rashid Moradov .
“The government’s and (President Ebrahim) Raeisi’s determination is to settle this debt,” he said.
In a ruling issued last year, the International Court of Arbitration (ICC) endorsed claims by Turkmenistan’s state-run gas company Turkmengaz that it is owed around $1.5 billion by the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) in arrears related to the supply of gas to Iran over 10 years to 2017.
The two companies have agreed to keep details of the ICC ruling confidential while the Iranian Oil Ministry has dismissed reports that the ICC has ordered Iran to pay $500 million in interest and fines on delayed payments related to the gas deal.
Owji said Iran is keen to resume imports of gas from Turkmenistan which once amounted to around 40 million cubic meters per day under the deal with Turkmengaz and was mainly aimed at supplying gas to areas in north and northeastern Iran where the country’s gas grid is not sufficiently expanded.
The comments come as Owji and other Iranian energy officials are expecting a major surge in demand for natural gas during the upcoming winter season when shortages can lead to lower supplies to power plants and cause power cuts in large cities.