By Armen Zakarian
Iran’s Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani plans to visit to Armenia this year to discuss cooperation between the militaries of the two neighboring states, a senior Iranian diplomat said on Monday.
The Iranian ambassador to Armenia, Mohammad Koleini, said the two sides are already preparing for what will be the first-ever official trip to Armenia by Iran’s most senior military official.
“Preparations for that visit are now underway and, as part of them, we are already discussing prospects for bilateral cooperation in the military sphere,” Koleini told reporters.
The issue appears to have dominated Koleini’s meeting on Saturday with Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. But no details of the meeting were immediately available.
Sarkisian’s spokesman, Seyran Shahsuvarian, told RFE/RL that no approximate date has been set yet for Shamkhani’s visit. He said it is natural for Yerevan and Tehran to have defense links.
Although the two countries have developed close political and economic ties over the last decade, cooperation between their armed forces has been virtually non-existent. According to Koleini, Tehran wants to extend bilateral relations to the military field because it believes that will foster regional peace and stability.
Speaking after his public lecture at Yerevan State University dedicated to the 23rd anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the envoy said the Iranian government decided Monday to unilaterally soften the visa regime with Armenia and hopes that the move will be reciprocated by Yerevan.
But it was not clear whether Armenian citizens traveling to Iran will now be able to get visas at the border or will not need them at all.