By Atom Markarian
Iran’s Trade Minister Mohammad Shariat-Madari finished a two-day visit to Armenia on Wednesday, announcing more agreements on expanding trade and other commercial links between the two neighboring states. Shariat-Madari said he and Armenian officials finalized several important documents that will be signed during President Robert Kocharian’s forthcoming official visit to Tehran.
Meeting with the Iranian minister earlier in the day, Kocharian called for the deepening of bilateral economic cooperation, saying that it should serve as a “firm base” for the broader Iranian-Armenian relationship. According to the presidential press service, the two men agreed that the close ties between their countries are “an important factor of peace and stability in the region.”
Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit, Shariat-Madari said the two sides worked out the main points of an agreement envisaging a far more favorable trade regime for nearly 40 types of products exported to Iran by Armenian firms. Those include machines, chemicals, electrical lamps and cigarettes. The agreement sets annual export quotas for each of them.
The Iranian market is protected by extremely high import tariffs, a sharp contrast to Armenia’s liberal trade regime. Armenian businessmen have long complained about that disparity.
Shariat-Madari also said that experts from both countries are continuing to work on the final details of two ambitious energy projects: construction of a 140-kilometer gas pipeline from Iran into Armenia and a hydroelectric power plant on the Arax river which marks the border between the two neighbors.
The start of the pipeline construction has been repeatedly delayed. But Armenian and Iranian officials now assure that the preparations are now in their final stage. They say construction work will be carried out by a consortium of Armenian, Iranian, French and Russian firms.