By Emil Danielyan
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will arrive in Armenia Monday on a first-ever official visit which the two neighboring states hope will cement their political and especially economic ties.
President Robert Kocharian’s office said on Friday that the two-day trip will result in the signing of more Iranian-Armenian agreements on “bilateral cooperation.” It said Ahmadinejad will hold talks with Kocharian, deliver a speech in the Armenian parliament and meet students and professors at Yerevan State University.
Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to meet with Iranians livings in Armenia and visit a 18th century Iranian mosque in Yerevan.
The outspoken Iranian leader already paid a brief visit to Armenia last March to inaugurate, together with Kocharian, the first Armenian section of a natural gas pipeline from Iran. The two men hailed the development as a new milestone in Armenian-Iranian ties. The pipeline’s second, much longer section is due to be completed by the end of next year.
Yerevan and Tehran are also pressing ahead with the implementation of other multimillion-dollar energy projects. That includes the construction of two hydro-electric plants on the Arax River marking the Armenian-Iranian border and a third high-voltage transmission line linking their power grids.
Also, the foreign ministers of the two nations, who co-chair an inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation, signed a memorandum in Yerevan in July on the start of feasibility studies on the ambitious ideas of building an Armenian-Iranian railway and a Russian-owned oil refinery that would process Iranian crude. In addition, the Armenian and Iranian governments have been working on a bilateral free trade agreement that could be signed by the end of this year.
Armenia’s growing ties with Iran prompted concern from the United States recently, with a senior American diplomat warning that they might run counter to international sanctions imposed on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.
(Photolur photo: Ahmadinejad and Kocharian pictured during the pipeline inauguration.)