Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami discussed the matter with Armenian officials when he visited Yerevan in May. He reportedly told them that Iranian companies would like to participate in the Armenian government’s plans to rebuild or repair the strategic highways passing through Armenia’s Syunik province.
Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Suren Papikian said afterwards that the two sides agreed to set up a joint working group that will explore such a possibility as well as ways of expanding broader economic ties between the two neighboring states.
The Armenian Ministry of Economy reported at the weekend that the working group held its first meeting in Tehran earlier last week. It said the meeting was co-chaired by one of Eslami’s deputies, Dariush Amani, and Armenia’s Deputy Economy Minister Varos Simonian.
Amani also heads Iran’s Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization.
A ministry statement gave few details of the meeting. It said the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to closer commercial ties and agreed to hold the next session of the task force in Yerevan on August 15.
Syunik borders not only Iran but also Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev threatened earlier this year to forcibly open a “corridor” connecting Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan. The Armenian government strongly condemned the threat.
Visiting Yerevan later in May, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif reiterated that the territorial integrity of Armenia and other regional states is a “red line” for the Islamic Republic.
While in Tehran, the Armenian delegation, which comprised senior official from several government agencies, also held separate talks with Amani, Iran’s Deputy Industry Minister Hamid Zadboum and the chairman of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Gholamhossein Shafei. They discussed, among other things, transport issues hampering Armenian-Iranian trade.
According to the Mehr news agency, Shafei said bilateral trade will grow rapidly if the United States lifts its crippling economic sanctions against Iran.