The Armenian government hopes that the ongoing construction of a third power transmission line connecting Armenia to neighboring Iran will be completed by the end of this year, Minister for Local Government and Infrastructures Suren Papikian said on Thursday.
Work on the high-voltage line, which is mainly carried out in southeastern Armenia by an Iranian company, was supposed to finish in September 2019. However, the launch of the $120 million facility was delayed due to a host of factors, reportedly including the U.S. sanctions against Iran.
“The construction is due to be completed this year,” Papikian told the Armenian parliament, according to the Armenpress news agency.
“Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus the beginning of this year was not that promising [for the project,]” he said. “We hope to be able to conclude the construction within the planned time frames.”
The high-voltage line will stretch almost 280 kilometers from Yerevan to Armenia’s border with Iran. It will allow the two neighboring states to triple mutual power supplies. Armenia has for years exported electricity to Iran in payment for up to 500 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas imported by it annually.
Papikian said in December that the new facility will also put Armenia in a better position to serve as a transit route for electricity supplies to the Islamic Republic from Georgia and even Russia.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly made clear that his government will seek to deepen Armenian-Iranian political and economic ties despite the U.S. sanctions.
“Our countries have very good relations,” he said on Thursday. “They are developing dynamically.”
Speaking in the parliament, Pashinian pointed to his April 28 phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
According to an official Armenian readout of the phone call, Rouhani and Pashinian discussed ways of minimizing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on bilateral commercial ties. “Both sides stressed the importance of taking further steps in that direction,” said the statement.
The Armenian government decided on February 24 to close the Iranian border for travel and cancel regular flights between the two states. The border, which serves as one of landlocked Armenia’s two conduits to the outside world, has remained largely open for cargo shipments.