Armenia and Iran plan to jointly manage their sole border crossing in an effort to facilitate travel and transport communication between the two neighboring states, the Armenian government said on Friday.
The government made the announcement after approving a relevant Armenian-Iranian draft agreement that stresses “the need to elevate the level of good-neighborly bilateral relations.”
The agreement was submitted to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet for approval by Gagik Khachatrian, head of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC). Officials in Yerevan could not say when it is expected to be signed.
The 6-page document stipulates that the immigration and customs bodies of the two countries will “provide joint services” at the Meghri-Nourdouz crossing in order to “facilitate international traffic of passenger, cargoes and transport vehicles.”
In particular, individuals crossing the Armenian-Iranian border, including commercial travelers, would have to fill out customs declarations only in the country of departure. They and their personal belongings, goods and means of transport would be checked only in the country of entry.
The two sides would have to inform one another about “suspicious goods” transported through Armenian or Iranian territory. Each side would be entitled to promptly receiving from the other information about the origin of such goods and, if applicable, the legality of their import from third countries.
The agreement also envisages the “simplification and standardization of customs documents” as well as the exchange of information between Armenian and Iranian immigration checkpoints at Meghri-Nourdouz. Nevertheless, passports will continue to be checked on either side of the frontier marked by the Arax river.
Armenian and Iranian nationals need visas to travel to each other’s country. Successive governments in Yerevan have been reluctant to accept Iranian proposals for a visa-free regime.
Tehran has also been pressing for the signing of an Armenian-Iranian free trade agreement. The two governments have yet to work out mutually acceptable terms of such a deal, though.
The plans for joint border control are a further indication of deepening Armenian-Iranian ties. The two governments are due to launch this year more multimillion-dollar commercial projects focused on energy. That includes the planned construction of two large hydro-electric plants on the Armenian-Iranian frontier.
The draft border agreement was revealed by the Armenian government less than two weeks after a last-minute cancellation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Yerevan. A spokesman for Ahmadinejad said that the Armenian side “did not prepare documents” that were due to be signed in Yerevan on June 6.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s office did not confirm that. It said vaguely that the trip was postponed by “mutual consent” and will take place “at a more convenient time.”
Some Armenian politicians and pundits attribute the postponement to Iran’s alleged unease over a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favored by the West and Russia. Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are due to meet again later this month for what international mediators hope will be decisive talks on Karabakh.