By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian will likely travel to Iran next month for his first face-to-face talks with the Islamic Republic’s controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his spokesman said on Thursday.
Victor Soghomonian, the presidential press secretary, told RFE/RL that the official visit is tentatively scheduled to take place “in the middle of this summer.”
Energy Minister Armen Movsisian was in Tehran late last month and discussed with senior Iranian officials details of Kocharian’s planned trip, suggesting that it will focus on Iranian-Armenian energy projects. According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Movsisian told his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, that it could “open a new chapter” in the close ties between the two neighboring states.
Mottaki, for his part, was quoted as praising “common interests” shared by Armenia and Iran and calling for a further deepening of their “profound relations.” The remarks are in line with Ahmadinejad’s pledges to continue his predecessors’ policy on Armenia which he made following his shock election as president a year ago.
Kocharian appears to be undeterred by the international ostracism of Ahmadinejad caused by his public denials of the Holocaust and threats to “wipe Israel off the map.” Official Yerevan pointedly declined to join Western governments in condemning the remarks.
Kocharian had already visited Tehran in 2003 to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then President Mohammad Khatami.