By Emil Danielyan
Iran’s controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that his recently installed government intends to deepen the Islamic Republic’s ties with Armenia “in all areas,” it was reported on Wednesday.
A statement by President Robert Kocharian’s office said Ahmadinejad assured late Tuesday the visiting chief of Kocharian’s staff, Artashes Tumanian, that the relationship between the two neighboring states will remain “at a high level.” He was cited as promising his personal support for the work of an Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency similarly quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that “Tehran fully supports expansion of bilateral relations in all areas.”
Tumanian, who is the commission’s Armenian co-chairman, passed on to Ahmadinejad a written message from Kocharian. “The president of Armenia expressed hope [in the message] that the existing friendly relations between Armenia and Iran will continue in the same spirit to the benefit of the Armenian and Iranian peoples,” said the statement by the presidential press service in Yerevan.
The statement did not specify if Kocharian invited his Iranian counterpart to visit Armenia in the near future. Ahmadinejad, known for his hardline position on the United States and the West in general, has faced worldwide condemnation over his recent public call for the destruction of Israel.
Tumanian met the Iranian leader on the third day of his official visit to Tehran. He reportedly described his talks with senior Iranian officials there as “productive.” The talks appear to have focused on bilateral projects in the energy sector. Energy Minister Armen Movsisian was among senior Armenian officials who accompanied Tumanian.
A separate statement by Kocharian’s office said the Armenian delegation discussed with Iran’s Energy Minister Parviz Fatah the ongoing construction of a pipeline which will ship Iranian natural gas to Iran. Work on the pipeline is due to be completed by the end of 2007.
Armenia is expected pay to for Iranian gas supplies with electricity to be generated by a half-complete power plant in the central town of Hrazdan. The Armenian government decided earlier this year to sign a management contract with a state-run Iranian company that pledged to complete the facility. Accordingly, the plant will be the main recipient of the Iranian gas.
The two states also plan to construct a major hydro-electric plant on the Arax river that marks the Armenian-Iranian border.