Armenia expressed serious concern on Friday about a possible upsurge in tensions in the Middle East and surrounding regions following a U.S. airs strike in Iraq that killed Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran's elite Quds Force.
“We are deeply concerned about the recent incidents in Baghdad which led to human losses as well,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “They risk further undermining the regional security and destabilizing the situation in the Middle East and beyond.”
“Armenia calls for the de-escalation of situation exclusively through peaceful means. Armenia will continue to closely cooperate with all its partners aimed at ensuring regional stability and security,” it added.
The statement followed an emergency meeting in Yerevan held by Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian with Armenian ambassadors to regional countries. The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian, gave no details of the “consultations.”
The assassination of Soleimani raised fresh fears in Yerevan of a direct military conflict between neighboring Iran and the United States. Some local observers were quick to warn of grave security threats to Armenia that would emanate from such a confrontation.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian blasted these “homemade geopolitics experts,” saying that they “want to spread panic” in the country.
“In the Republic of Armenia, there are institutions that are able to monitor the situation, analyze developments and, if need be, take steps commensurate with the situation, and all necessary instructions have been given [to them,]” Pashinian wrote on Facebook.
With Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey closed due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Iran as well as Georgia are the landlocked country’s sole conduits to the outside world. Successive Armenian governments have therefore maintained cordial relations with Tehran.
Pashinian has repeatedly made clear that that his administration will seek closer Armenian-Iranian political and economic ties despite the U.S. sanctions against Tehran. He insisted in August that Washington is not pressuring Yerevan to curtail those ties.
The Armenian leader went on to invite Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to a summit of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union held in Yerevan in October. Rouhani accepted the invitation.