Salehi and Armenian Energy Minister Armen Movsisian stressed the need for much closer economic ties between the two neighboring states co-chairing a regular session of an Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission that ended in its work in Tehran late on Monday.
Reports from the Iranian capital said they signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation on oil, gas and electricity and expand their commercial and industrial ties.
The meeting came met less than a week before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s official visit to Armenia. Preparations for the two-day trip were apparently discussed by Salehi’s deputy Mohammad-Reza Sheibani in Yerevan earlier this month.
“Keeping in mind Armenia’s unique position in the region -- which can be connected to the Black Sea in the west on one hand and to the Persian Gulf through Iran on the other hand -- can bring very positive economic fruits both for our two countries and for the entire region,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Salehi as saying after the commission meeting.
The chief Iranian diplomat called for a further rise in Armenian-Iranian trade, which soared by 38 percent to $270 million last year. He also said that the Islamic Republic can serve as a “reliable source of energy” for its landlocked and resource-poor neighbor.
Iran’s energy ties with Armenia are expected to deepen significantly as a result of multimillion-dollar projects devised by the two governments. Those include the construction of two hydro-electric plants on the Arax river marking the Armenian-Iranian border and a pipeline that will ship Iranian fuel to Armenia.
The two sides also plan to start building next month a third high-voltage transmission line connecting their power grids, which would allow for a sharp increase in Armenian electricity supplies to Iran. Much of that electricity is to be generated by Iranian natural gas shipped to Armenia.
According to IRNA, another Iranian official, Deputy Transport Minister Reza Pilpayeh, reaffirmed Tehran’s support for the ambitious idea of building a 540-kilometer railway connecting Iran to Armenia. He said Iranian companies are ready to carry out most of the construction work estimated to cost $2.5 billion.
Movsisian reportedly described the project as “economically feasible.” He also indicated that Yerevan hopes the Iranian side will at least partly finance its implementation.