By Hrach Melkumian
The head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Hasan Rowhani, reaffirmed on Tuesday his country’s intention to maintain close political and economic relations with Armenia, saying that the latter plays a “pivotal” role in regional peace and stability. Ending a two-day official visit to Armenia, the Iranian official called for Yerevan’s involvement in the creation of what he described as a “North-South axis.”
President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian leaders, for their part, said they would only welcome a greater Iranian presence in the South Caucasus. Kocharian was quoted by his press office as telling Rowhani that a “solution to issues related to regional security is impossible without Iran’s participation.” According to Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, the existence of “a powerful Iran” is one of Armenia’s main security guarantees.
Rowhani arrived in Yerevan on Monday and went straight into talks with his Armenian counterpart, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. He called the close ties between Tehran and Yerevan as a “necessity,” “The Tehran Times” reported the next day. Sarkisian said the implementation of bilateral projects in the energy and transport sectors will contribute to regional security.
Meeting with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Rowhani declared that the “friendly” Iranian-Armenian rapport is not directed against a third country and that Tehran is ready to play an “active and constructive role” in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
International mediators acting under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe agreed earlier this year to regularly brief Iranian officials on their peace efforts, a move welcomed by Yerevan, which views Tehran’s stance on the issue as “balanced” and “impartial.” The French, Russian and French mediators, however, have ruled out any direct Iranian involvement in the peace process.
Kocharian is due to pay an official visit to Iran later this year. The presidential press service quoted Rowhani as saying that the trip will mark a “turning point” in the bilateral relationship.