The United States does not object to Armenia’s plans to step up economic cooperation with neighboring Iran following the lifting of international sanctions against Tehran, a senior U.S. diplomat confirmed on Thursday.
Leslie Tsou, a senior advisor on Iran at the U.S. State Department, described Armenia as a “very close friend and ally of the United States” that contributed to Iran’s recent nuclear deal with the West by complying with those sanctions.
“I want to thank Armenia and the Armenian people for the sacrifices that Armenia made to help enforce our sanctions regime,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) during a visit to Yerevan.
Tsou stressed that although the U.S. maintains other, bilateral sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic, Armenia is free to “flourish with a new relationship with Iran.” “I don’t know of any reasons why your two countries can’t do direct business together,” she said.
“Where it becomes complicated is when a business in particular might touch on the United States,” Tsou went on. “I don’t think the Iranian businesses have an issue with that because they’ve been separated from us for some time.
“But there are many businesses that are multinational and that’s where I would urge any business that has ties to the United States one way or another to reach out to our Treasury Department and its Office of Foreign Assets Control to check whether whatever it is that they are thinking about doing is legal.”
Armenia was quick to welcome the July 2015 agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program and the resulting sanctions relief. Senior Armenian officials have repeatedly said the landmark deal will speed up the implementation of Armenian-Iranian energy projects regarded as strategically important by Yerevan. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to visit Armenia by the end of this year.
“It is natural for Armenia to start thinking about the impact that the lifting of sanctions might have on its political and economic ties with Iran,” Richard Mills, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, said in February. Armenia might even become a “platform” for U.S.-Iranian commercial relations in the future, he said.
Tsou noted that while a full normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations is still not on the horizon, tensions between Washington and Tehran have eased in recent years.
“We’re worried about their continuing support for terrorism and their human rights record,” she said. “But there are increasingly areas of cooperation in the Middle East where our interests overlap. We would like to explore those.”