Despite receiving an official invitation from Iran, President Serzh Sarkisian refrained from taking part in a summit of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) that opened in Tehran on Thursday.
The two-day meeting brought together about three dozen heads of state or government as well as other senior officials from 120 countries making up the loose grouping in which Armenia has an observer status. It is the largest international event held Iran in more than a decade. The Iranian government hopes to use it for easing the Islamic Republic’s international isolation.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad sent a formal invitation to Sarkisian through his energy minister, Majid Namjou, who visited Yerevan in June. An Iranian news agency quoted the Armenian ambassador to Iran, Grigor Arakelian, as saying last week that the Armenian leader will attend the summit.
The Armenian presidential press office did not confirm the information, however, and it was announced on Wednesday that Armenia will be represented at the summit by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. The office declined to given any reasons for Sarkisian’s decision on Thursday.
The United States has discouraged leaders of friendly nations as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from participating in the summit because of Iran’s continuing standoff with the West over its controversial nuclear program.