By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian assured a senior Iranian diplomat on Wednesday that Armenia will continue to strengthen its political and especially economic links with neighboring Iran during his tenure.
Sarkisian was quoted by his office as telling the Iranian ambassador in Yerevan, Seyed Ali Saghalian, that Armenia is “determined to expand the scope of cooperation” with the Islamic Republic. “The president attached particular importance to the effective course of [bilateral] projects implemented in the area of energy and found the expansion of the volume of trade and the stimulation of contacts between [the two countries’] private sectors a top priority,” the presidential press service said in a statement.
According to the statement, Saghalian said Tehran is also committed to stepping up cooperation with Yerevan. Iran’s First Vice-President Parviz Davoud made similar assurances in a letter of congratulation sent to Armenia’s new Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian. Davoud was quoted by the Armenian government’s press office on Wednesday as expressing hope that the next few years will see the “expansion of bilateral relations in various areas.”
Armenian-Iranian ties have been cemented in recent years by several multimillion-dollar energy projects, notably the construction of a natural gas pipeline. Work on the second and final Armenian section of the pipeline is due to be completed by the end of this year. Much of Iranian gas that will be supplied to Armenia is to be converted into electricity which will be delivered to the Islamic Republic. The two governments are currently building a third high-voltage line connecting their power grids for that purpose.
However, despite these and other energy projects, commercial links between the two nations remain rather modest in both absolute and relative terms. Armenian-Iranian trade rose by 25 percent to $180.25 million but still accounted for only 4 percent of Armenia’s external commercial exchange last year.