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Armenian, Iranian Leaders Discuss Closer Ties Amid Transport Hurdles


Tajikistan - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meet in Dushanbe, September 17, 2021.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian discussed on Friday ways of deepening bilateral commercial ties complicated by an Azerbaijani checkpoint set up on the main highway connecting the two neighboring states.

Raisi and Pashinian met on the sidelines of a Collective Security Treaty Organization summit in Tajikistan as Azerbaijani officers stopped and demanded hefty payments from Iranian trucks transporting goods to and from Armenia for the sixth consecutive day.

More than a hundred such trucks were reportedly stranded on Thursday at a 21-kilometer section of the highway which the Armenian government controversially ceded to Azerbaijan following last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani authorities set up the checkpoint there on Sunday after again accusing Iranian trucks of illegally shipping cargos to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian government’s press office said Pashinian and Raisi discussed, among other things, ways of “organizing unfettered cargo shipments between the two countries” as well as “processes taking place in the region.” It gave no details.

The official Iranian readout of the talks made no mention of the new obstacle to Armenian-Iranian trade and wider transport links. It said Raisi “stressed the need to increase the current level of economic relations between Iran and Armenia.”

In that regard, the recently elected Iranian president was reported to say that an Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation should become “more active.” He proposed that Yerevan and Tehran set up joint “specialized working groups” that would deal with “obstacles” to the implementation of their joint economic projects.

According to the statement posted on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website, Pashinian pledged to “instruct relevant ministers” to remove those obstacles.

It was Pashinian’s second meeting with Raisi in less than two months. The two men held their first face-to-face talks in early August when the Armenian premier visited Tehran to attend Raisi’s swearing-in ceremony held in the Iranian parliament.

During those talks Pashinian reaffirmed his government’s readiness to have Iranian companies participate in its plans to refurbish Armenian highways leading to the Islamic Republic. The two governments set up in May a working group tasked with looking into practical aspects of such participation.

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