The lifting of international sanctions against Iran has opened up “quite a few interesting opportunities” for Armenia’s economy, a senior official from the World Bank said on Tuesday.
Laura Bailey, the head of the bank’s Yerevan office, said the development could speed up the implementation of Armenian-Iranian energy projects, facilitate trade between the two neighboring states and turn Armenia into a commercial bridge between Iran and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Bailey argued that Armenia is the only EEU member state bordering Iran. She suggested that other EEU member states might therefore “invest here to work with Iran.”
“It may also be the other way: that Iran may wish to trade with the EEU and Armenia may pave the way for Iran,” she added.
Immediately after Iran reached in July a landmark deal with world powers on its controversial nuclear program, the Armenian government proposed that the EEU explore the possibility of negotiating a free trade agreement with the Islamic Republic.
Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said in September that the EEU’s executive body and member states agreed to set up a task force that will weigh up potential economic benefits and risks of such an agreement. “Iran has always shown an interest in this matter,” he said.
According to government statistics, Armenia’s trade with Iran totaled a modest $250 million in January-November 2015. This figure should rise significantly after the construction of a new high-voltage transmission line that will connect the power grids of the two countries. It is designed to sharply increase Armenian electricity exports to Iran and Iranian gas supplies to Armenia.
Work on the transmission line began late last year and is due to finish in 2017. Armenian officials have expressed hope that the lifting of the sanctions will also allow the Iranian side to finance the $350 million construction of a major hydroelectric plant on the Armenian-Iranian border.
Bailey described information technology (IT), the fastest growing sector of the Armenian economy, as another potential area of closer Armenian-Iranian cooperation. “This could be quite a strategic advantage for Armenia,” she said.