Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian welcomed the latest “positive” developments in Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West as he held talks with top Iranian officials in Tehran at the weekend.
Nalbandian met with Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to discuss bilateral ties and regional security.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Salehi and Jalili briefed him on the Islamic Republic’s renewed negotiations with key Western powers as well as Russia and China on its controversial nuclear program.
Those negotiations resumed in Istanbul on April 14 amid growing talk of U.S. or Israeli military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. The next round of talks is due to take place in Baghdad on May 23.
A Foreign Ministry statement quoted Nalbandian as hailing a “positive trend” which he said emerged at the Istanbul meeting and expressing hope that the interested parties will make further progress at Baghdad.
“Positive signals can be seen in solving Iran’s nuclear issue and we hope they will result in a settlement of this issue,” the chief Armenian diplomat said on Sunday at an ensuing joint news conference with Salehi, according to the Fars news agency. He also defended Tehran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Nalbandian made clear earlier this month that Armenia is against military action against Iran, one of its few conduits to the outside world, and hopes that the standoff will be resolved through “dialogue and negotiations.” He spoke after a meeting in Yerevan with Russia’s visiting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The latter warned that attempts to end the dispute by force would destabilize the entire region.
Armenian-Iranian economic ties and in particular joint energy projects planned by the two neighboring states were also high on the agenda of Nalbandian’s talks in Tehran. According to Fars, Ahmadinejad stressed the importance of the planned construction of an Armenian-Iranian electricity transmission line, two hydro-electric plants and a fuel pipeline.
The Iranian president was also reported to call for a free trade agreement between the two countries. “Preparing conditions for free trade activities at the two countries’ borders will remarkably aid in facilitating trade exchanges and traders’ visits,” Ahmadinejad said.
Tehran has for years been pressing for the signing of an Armenian-Iranian free trade deal. The two governments have yet to work out mutually acceptable terms of such a deal, however.