President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated Iran’s strong interest in expanding its “historic, deep and friendly” relations with Armenia as he met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Tehran at the weekend.
Ahmadinejad reportedly called for a faster implementation of more Armenian-Iranian energy projects. Official Iranian sources quoted him as saying they will bolster peace and stability in the region.
“We can expand the existing relations by up to three times,” Ahmadinejad told Nalbandian late on Saturday, according to the Mehr news agency.
Another Iranian news agency, IRNA, quoted him as repeating his earlier remark that Tehran is placing “no limitations” on the development of bilateral ties “in all areas.”
A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two men agreed on the need for a “further development of the mutually beneficial relations.”
“The course of the implementation of joint economic projects was discussed during the meeting,” added the statement. It gave no details.
The projects include the construction of two hydroelectric plants on the Arax river marking the Armenian-Iranian border and a pipeline that will ship Iranian fuel to Armenia. The two governments also plan to build a third high-voltage transmission line connecting their power grids.
The Armenian government has repeatedly said that work on these facilities will start this year. However, there have been no official announcements to that effect yet.
Ahmadinejad spoke of “technical and financial problems” hampering the implementation of those projects. According to Mehr, he said they should be overcome “as soon as possible.”
The unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was also reportedly on the agenda of Nalbandian’s talks with Ahmadinejad and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi. The Armenian minister again praised the Islamic Republic’s “balanced” stance on the dispute.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Salehi asked Nalbandian to brief him on the latest developments in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations mediated by the United States, Russia and France.
Ahmadinejad telephoned the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in late June ahead of their most recent meeting hosted by Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev. Contrary to the mediating powers’ expectations, the two sides failed to hammer out a framework peace accord at that trilateral summit.
Some analysts attributed Ahmadinejad’s phone calls to Iran’s alleged unease over a Karabakh settlement favored by the West and Russia.
Earlier in June, Ahmadinejad cancelled a planned visit to Yerevan at the last minute. A spokesman for the Iranian president claimed that the Armenian side “did not prepare documents” that were due to be signed there.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s office did not confirm that. It said vaguely that the visit was postponed by “mutual consent” and will take place “at a more convenient time.”
No dates for the trip were announced after Nalbandian’s meetings in Tehran.