Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi visited Armenia on Tuesday for talks with senior Armenian officials that reportedly focused on growing bilateral ties and regional security.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Araghchi and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian discussed “the development of a high-level dialogue” between the two neighboring states and joint economic projects planned by them.
A ministry statement said the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as the conflict in Syria were also on the agenda of the talks. It quoted Araghchi as saying that Tehran stands for a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on “the principles of international law.”
According to Iranian news reports, Araghchi also discussed the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute at a separate meeting with Shavarsh Kocharian, one of Nalbandian’s deputies.
The talks came more than one month after Armenia and Iran began the construction of a major hydroelectric plant on the Arax river marking their border. The $330 million project was inaugurated in the presence of President Serzh Sarkisian and Iran’s Energy Minister Majid Namjou.
Namjou was reported to tell Sarkisian that he and his Armenian counterpart Armen Movsisian will continue to “actively work” on the implementation of other Armenian-Iranian energy projects. Those include the construction of a fuel pipeline and a new power transmission line. Both projects as well as the Arax plant’s construction have fallen behind schedule.
Tehran seems to extend Armenian-Iranian economic cooperation beyond energy. The Fars news agency reported on Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with Alireza Beigi, governor of Iran’s northwestern East Azerbaijan bordering Armenia. It said they discussed the possibility of establishing tax-free cross-border trade between the two nations.
According to Fars, Beigi briefed Salehi on a recent visit to East Azerbaijan by an Armenian government delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian. The governor was quoted as saying that Gevorgian expressed Yerevan’s readiness to set up a “joint economic zone” with the Iranian region.
Another Iranian news agency, IRNA, cited Beigi as telling reporters in the regional capital Tabriz that the two governments aim to raise bilateral trade to as much as $3 million in the future and that East Azerbaijan is trying to contribute to the realization of that goal.
According to Armenian government data, the total volume of Armenian-Iranian trade stood at just $261 million in the first ten months of this year.