Iran’s warm rapport with neighboring Armenia has deep roots and should serve as a model for other regional states, Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said, starting an official visit to Yerevan on Monday.
“The friendly relations between Iran and Armenia are rooted in the two nations’ old civilization and can … serve as a model for the other neighboring countries,” Mohammad-Najjar told journalists at Tehran airport, according the Fars news agency
“Fortunately relations between the two countries are very dynamic, friendly and durable and the authorities of both states are determined to promote all-out ties,” he said, adding that nothing can undermine them.
“In addition, Iran’s and Armenia's borders are borders of peace and stability. People of the two countries have a positive look at each other,” he said.
Another Iranian news agency, IRNA, quoted Mohammad-Najjar as praising Armenia’s “strategic role” in the region and calling it a “bridge” to the Persian Gulf.
Mohammad-Najjar went straight into talks with President Serzh Sarkisian when he arrived in Yerevan later in the day. Sarkisian was cited by his press office as saying that they “testify to the mutual desire to further strengthen Armenian-Iranian friendship and determination to further deepen practical ties.”
A statement by the office said the two men stressed the need for direct contacts between various Armenian and Iranian regions as well as an “exchange of experience” in law-enforcement and disaster management. No other details were reported.
Mohammad-Najjar, who was accompanied by two Iranian provincial governors, also held a separate meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government Armen Gevorgian. Gevorgian’s press office said the meeting focused on economic issues and, in particular, ways of boosting bilateral trade.
The volume of that trade rose by 13.6 percent to $323.4 million last year, according to official Armenian statistics. Officials in Tehran and Yerevan expect it to growth faster with the planned implementation of joint commercial projects such as the construction of a major hydroelectric plant on the Armenian-Iranian border and a third high-voltage transmission line connecting the two countries’ power grids.
Iranian Energy Minister Majid Namjou discussed those projects with Armenian leaders when he visited Yerevan last month. It was announced after his talks that the repeatedly delayed construction of the 140-megawatt power plant will start in August.
According to Iran’s Press TV, Mohammad-Najjar’s deputy Mehdi Mohammadi-Far said on Friday that the interior minister’s two-day trip will end with the signing of an Armenian-Iranian “protocol on security, border, trade and commercial cooperation.”
Relations with the Islamic Republic is a rare matter of national consensus in Armenia, reflecting its unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and strained relations with another Muslim neighbor, Turkey. With the Armenian-Azerbaijani and Armenian-Turkish borders closed for almost two decades, Iran is one of the landlocked country’s two conduits to the outside world.
Sarkisian described the Armenian-Iranian relationship as “truly exemplary” during a March 2011 visit to Tehran.