By Hrach Melkumian and Emil Danielyan
Armenia shares common geopolitical interests with the United States, but objects to U.S. policy on Iran, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Tuesday.
He made it clear that Yerevan will never take any steps that could jeopardize its close relations with the Islamic Republic accused by Washington of being part of a global “axis of evil.”
“We can do a lot of things for the United States in this region. But there are also many things which we cannot do,” Oskanian told a large group of activists of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party.
“For example, we can not contribute to the policy of isolating Iran,” he said. “There is no way Armenia can do that because it doesn’t stem from our interests. It contradicts our security and economic development priorities.”
Close political and economic relations with Iran have been a key element of foreign policy pursued by successive Armenian governments over the past decade. An open border with Iran has eased the crippling effects of economic blockades imposed on Armenia by its two other Muslim neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, after the outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Both Yerevan and Tehran oppose the spread of Turkish influence in the region.
Oskanian’s comments coincided with the arrival in Yerevan of Iran’s minister of science and technology, Mutafa Moin. Moin met with President Robert Kocharian and was due to sign a cooperation agreement with his Armenian counterpart. He is the second senior Iranian official to visit Armenia over the past week. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said after talks in the Armenian capital last Wednesday that the intensity of bilateral ties is “increasingly rapidly.”
The U.S., which views the Islamic regime in Tehran as a threat to Middle East security, openly voiced reservations about the character of Iranian-Armenian relations last year. The U.S. ambassador to Yerevan, John Ordway, told RFE/RL in May 2002 that Washington understands their strategic importance for Armenia, but nonetheless counts on the latter’s support in countering Tehran's alleged efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and undermine the Middle East peace process.
"We certainly look to Armenia for support in our efforts to deny Iran the means to acquire the weapons of mass destruction as well as to speak out against Iran's support for terrorism, which has a particularly insidious impact on the Middle East peace process," Ordway said at the time.