Nalbandian met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and the secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, during the one-day trip.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ahmadinejad and Nalbandian expressed their “satisfaction with multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries” and “readiness to develop it further.” A ministry statement singled out joint commercial projects implemented and planned by Yerevan and Tehran.
The multimillion-dollar projects involving energy and transportation were high on the agenda of his talks with Mottaki. “The interlocutors reaffirmed their readiness to develop bilateral relations based on mutual benefit,” read the ministry statement.
According to the Fars news agency, Nalbandian described those relations as “warm and excellent” at a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart. Another Iranian news agency, IRNA, quoted Mottaki as saying that both sides are “determined to enhance the level of our political, economic and cultural cooperation.”
Neither minister made any mention of a free trade agreement currently discussed by the two sides. Armenian government officials denied this weeks Iranian media reports saying that it will be signed during Economy Minister Armen Yeritsian’s upcoming visit to the Islamic Republic. They said free trade terms proposed by the Iranians are not acceptable to Yerevan.
Reports from Tehran said the two foreign ministers also discussed the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh, with Nalbandian again praising Iran’s “balanced” position on the issue. “The Iranian foreign minister was informed of the latest developments regarding the Karabakh issue and Iran was praised for its role [in solving the dispute,]” the Tehran-based Press TV quoted him as saying.
Mottaki, for his part, briefed Nalbandian on the status of Iran’s standoff with the West stemming from its controversial nuclear program. Nalbandian said Armenia is “closely monitoring” the situation and hopes for “a mutually acceptable solution” to it, according to the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
Successive Armenian governments have avoided any criticism of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, underscoring the Islamic Republic’s perceived importance for their landlocked country’s security and economic development. Unresolved bitter disputes with the two other Muslim neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, make Iran one of Armenia’s two transport conduits to the outside world.
Visiting Germany in June, President Serzh Sarkisian publicly stated that the nuclear crisis will not be resolved unless the West addresses “Iran’s sense of being in danger.” He also held up the Armenian-Iranian projects as a model for regional cooperation.
By the same token, close ties with Armenia have been a key element of Iranian policy towards the South Caucasus not least because of Iran’s traditional rivalry with Turkey and an uneasy rapport with Azerbaijan. In a recent interview with Panarmenian.net, Mottaki said Armenia “occupies a special place” in his country’s regional policy.