By Emil Danielyan
Iran’s newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will continue his predecessor’s policy of maintaining close political and economic relations with Armenia, a senior Iranian official said on Wednesday.
Ebrahim Derazgisou, the governor of Iran’s southern Hormuzgan province, met President Robert Kocharian and was quoted by the latter’s press service as saying that Ahmadinejad “intends to continue his predecessor’s policies, especially on relations with neighboring states.”
Derazgisou made the assurances after Kocharian expressed hope that the new Iranian leader, notorious for his ultra-conservative views, will stick to “Armenian-Iranian agreements reached to date.” Kocharian expressed a similar wish in a congratulatory message sent to Ahmadinejad late last month.
Ahmadinejad’s surprise victory in the Iranian presidential election raised concern in the West and has rendered Tehran’s foreign policy more unpredictable. However, analysts say the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is likely to retain final say on the key issues. The development of Armenian-Iranian ties over the past 15 years is thought to have occurred with Khamenei’s blessing.
Armenian-Iranian trade has dwindled in recent years but may pick up in the near future as a result of joint energy projects launched by the two governments. Armenia has borrowed tens of millions of dollars in Iranian loans to finance the construction of a major gas pipeline and high-voltage transmission lines. Yerevan will repay those loans them with electricity supplies to Iran.
Kocharian said that the volume of bilateral cargo turnover will grow “considerably” after the planned construction of a second Armenian highway leading to the Iranian border. Meeting with Derazgisou on Tuesday, Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian said in this regard that he hopes the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, capital of Hormuzgan province, will become a new conduit for Armenia’s communications with the outside world.
The Iranian governor was reported to welcome the idea. He also told Kocharian that he will personally support any Armenian entrepreneur willing to do business in his province.
Derazgisou and other members of the Hormuzgan administration arrived in Armenia at the invitation of the leadership of the southern Ararat region.