Prime Minister Karen Karapetian met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday at the end of an official visit to Tehran that focused on ongoing efforts to expand Armenian-Iranian commercial ties.
He reportedly discussed with Rouhani and other Iranian leaders the implementation of joint energy projects and ways of removing barriers to bilateral trade.
“Armenia attaches great importance to its warm and friendly relations with neighboring Iran which have strong historical foundations and are based on mutual interests,” Karapetian was quoted by his press office as telling Rouhani.
The Iranian president reaffirmed his commitment to closer ties with Armenia. “Expansion of relations with Armenia, a friendly country and a neighbor, has been of significance for Iran,” he said, according to the IRNA news agency. He said more needs to be done to utilize the economic potential of bilateral relations.
Rouhani gave the same assurances to President Serzh Sarkisian when they met in Tehran the day after he was sworn in for a second term in early August.
“We have no limits on cooperation with Armenia in the political, economic and cultural fields,” Iran’s First Vice-President Eshaq Jahagiri told reporters after holding talks with Karapetian on Monday.
“We both affirmed that we are ready to enhance the volume of Armenian-Iranian relations and are determined to remove obstacles on that path,” Karapetian said for his part.
An Armenian government statement said the two men reviewed the ongoing construction of a new power transmission line which should significantly increase Armenian electricity exports to Iran. Supplies of Iranian natural gas to Armenia will also soar as a result.Karapetian also discussed this project at a separate meeting on Tuesday with Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and Energy Minister Sattar Mahmoudi.
Three other Iranian ministers held separate meetings with their Armenian opposite numbers accompanying Karapetian.
Also on the agenda of Karapetian’s talks was the upcoming creation of a “free economic zone” near Meghri, an Armenian town on the Iranian border. Karapetian urged Iranian firms to set up shop there and gain tariff-free access to markets in Russia and other members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). They could also take advantage of Armenia’s preferential trade regime with the European Union, he said.
Iran has been negotiating with the EEU on a free-trade deal strongly supported by Armenia. Karapetian was reported to tell Jahangiri that Yerevan is “ready to provide necessary support” for a speedy conclusion of those talks.
According to official Armenian statistics, Armenian-Iranian trade stood at a relatively modest $173.5 million in the first eight months of this year. Iran accounted for less than 5 percent of Armenia’s overall foreign trade.