President Serzh Sarkisian has urged Western powers to respect Iran’s geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus and held up Armenia’s economic projects with the Islamic Republic as a model for regional cooperation.
Ending an official visit to Germany late on Tuesday, Sarkisian also asserted that the Western-backed energy projects involving Azerbaijan and excluding Armenia have only complicated a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In a speech at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation headquarters in Berlin, he said: “I do realize that in the light of the sanctions imposed on Iran some people will treat my approach with skepticism, but I am convinced that it is wrong and not possible to ignore Iran in regional solutions.”
“It is extremely important for the region to address Iran’s sense of being in danger. Without that, there can be no solution to future challenges or even the current [Iranian] nuclear problem,” he said.
Sarkisian did not specify what concrete role Iran should play in regional security. Nor was it clear whether he thinks Tehran should have a major say in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
The Armenian leader instead promoted his administration’s plans to implement more multimillion-dollar projects with Iran. He singled out the planned construction of an Armenian-Iranian railway and the unfolding upgrading of Armenia’s main highways stretching from the Iranian border to southern Georgia.
“These infrastructure projects could have a truly revolutionary significance in terms of transport communication as they would connect the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean,” he declared.
Sarkisian juxtaposed them against the pipelines carrying Azerbaijani oil and gas to international markets through Georgia and Turkey. He said the resulting windfall revenues have only enabled Azerbaijan to embark on a military build-up, thereby increasing the likelihood of renewed war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“What has that project given the region?” he said, referring to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. “Deepening of division lines, an arms race, an increase in bellicose rhetoric. Was this the anticipated ‘security and prosperity?’”
“Oil and gas pipelines, communication lines stretching only from the east to the west can not guarantee stability, security and prosperity in the region,” he added.
Sarkisian also denounced Azerbaijan for rejecting any economic cooperation with Armenia before a resolution of the Karabakh conflict. He said “economic integration processes” involving all regional states would greatly facilitate a Karabakh settlement.