Iran’s First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri arrived in Armenia’s capital Yerevan on Wednesday on an official visit expected to revive the Islamic Republic’s economic ties with its South Caucasus neighbor.
Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian greeted the arriving guest at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport in the afternoon. According to a government press release, during his two-day stay in the Armenian capital Jahangiri is due to meet with the Armenian president, parliament speaker, prime minister, as well as the Catholicos of All Armenians.
On the Iranian delegation are the country’s ministers of transport, tourism and cultural values. It is yet unclear what specific issues the Iranian official is going to discuss in Yerevan.
A meeting of the Iranian official and the Armenian prime minister took place later on Wednesday.
During the meeting Armenian Prime Minister Abrahamian said: “We have always placed importance on consistent development of our relations with our friendly neighbor Iran. Iran is one of our most important partners, with which cooperation has a rich agenda.”
Vice-President Jahangiri, for his part, said: “The Republic of Armenia has its own place in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we have no limitations in terms of developing our relations with Armenia.”
Jahangiri is the highest Iranian official to have arrived in Armenia since 2011 when then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a visit. His trip comes shortly after Iran and Western powers have signed a historic nuclear deal that also implies a gradual removal of international sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.
During the three months following the Iran-West agreement Yerevan and Tehran have already signed an energy sector contract worth around $120 million under which construction of a third high-voltage transmission line will be restarted.
Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan in September stated that upon Armenia’s initiative a working group will be established in the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic grouping of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that Armenia joined in January, and that this group will deal with the establishment of a free trade area between the EEU and Iran.
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda correspondent Roobik Ghahraman Monasian has expressed an opinion that the main purpose of Vice-President Jahangiri’s visit to Yerevan is to revive Armenian-Iranian economic projects that were suspended due to sanctions. Monasian said he followed the Iranian media reports regarding the visit of the official to Armenia.
“It is said that the vice-president is coming with a serious political and economic delegation, and both political and economic aspects are accentuated. There are also businessmen with him, in Armenia he will meet with Armenian and Iranian businessmen,” said Monasian.
On Thursday, Armenian Prime Minister Abrahamyan and Iranian Vice-President Jahangiri will attend the opening of an Armenian-Iranian business forum in Yerevan.
According to the National Statistical Service, during the first eight months of this year Armenia and Iran had trade worth $178 million, which makes 5.9 percent of Armenia’s foreign trade. By this showing Iran is Armenia’s fourth largest trading partner after the European Union, Russia and China.
According to Richard Giragosian, director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center, after the gradual removal of sanctions from Iran one should expect the Islamic Republic to get more actively involved particularly in regional political and economic relations.
“The visit in itself is important. In fact, the visit follows a similar reciprocal visit by the Armenian prime minister to Tehran. What it represents, though, is an opportunity not only to explore a deepening of relations between Armenia and Iran, post sanctions, post agreement, but there is also a danger. If this visit is in preparation for the planned visit of the Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani, it is a very positive step forward. If, however, it’s a replacement, instead of the planned visit by Iranian President Rouhani, then it will be a missed opportunity,” Giragosian said.
The Armenian government’s press service reports that the high-ranking Iranian official is scheduled to visit the Matenadaran ancient manuscripts museum and Yerevan’s Blue Mosque. Nothing is reported about Jahangiri’s possible visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not go to the hilltop monument at Tsitsernakaberd when he paid his visit to Armenia four years ago.