(RFE/RL, AFP) - President Robert Kocharian met Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami, and other top officials in Tehran at the start of a three-day official visit. Officials said the talks focused on economic cooperation, including multimillion-dollar bilateral commercial projects.
“We are at a point where we should henceforth develop and einforce our economic cooperation and maintain close relations in this area,” Kocharian told reporters on arrival in the Iranian capital.
For his part, Khatami was quoted as saying his country's ties with Armenia “are already very good but need to be strengthened.” “We live in a very sensitive region, which is in need of peace and stability, and it is because of that that we are going to reinforce our ties in that direction,” Khatami said.
The Armenian ambassador to Iran, Gegham Gharibjanian, told RFE/RL by phone that the two countries will sign at least ten agreements covering energy, customs, road-construction, education and culture. Gharibjanian said the two presidents will seal a final deal on the construction of a strategic gas pipeline linking Iran and Armenia and a hydro-electric power plant on the river Arax that marks the border between the two neighbors.
Muslim Iran and Armenia, its only Christian neighbor, have maintained close political and economic relations for the past ten years. Officials from both states say they hope that Kocharian’s visit will strengthen bilateral ties further. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman told the official IRNA news agency on Monday that “friendly relations” between Tehran and Yerevan contribute to peace and stability in the region.
In addition to talks that also broached the latest developments in the region, Kocharian attended a welcoming ceremony in Tehran's Saint Sarkis Armenian Cathedral organized by Iran's 300,000-strong Armenian community.
Kocharian is also scheduled to meet with Kamal Kharazi, Iran's foreign minister, and with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spiritual leader of Iran, during the trip.
Following his arrival at the Tehran airport, where he was greeted by Economy Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri, Kocharian traveled to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic republic.