He discussed the matter with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in a phone call initiated by the latter, according to the Iranian presidential office.
“One of the key policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries. In this regard, Tehran supports the sovereignty of Armenia over all territories and roads passing through that country,” the office quoted Raisi as telling Pashinian.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are to reopen their border to commercial and passenger traffic under the terms of a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped their six-week war for Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020. The deal specifically commits Yerevan to opening rail and road links between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly claimed that it envisages an exterritorial land corridor that would pass through Armenia’s Syunik province bordering Iran. He said on December 14 that people and cargo using that “Zangezur corridor” must be exempt from Armenian border controls.
Pashinian rejected the demand voiced just hours before his talks with Aliyev held in Brussels. He and other Armenian leaders have since continued to maintain that Armenia must have full control over all roads and railways passing through its territory.
Syunik connects the rest of Armenia to Iran through mountainous roads used not only for Armenian-Iranian trade but also cargo shipments to and from other parts of the world. Armenia lost control over one of those roads after a controversial troop withdrawal ordered by Pashinian following the Karabakh war.
In September this year, Azerbaijan set up checkpoints there to tax Iranian vehicles. The move triggered unprecedented tensions between Tehran and Baku.
Some Iranian officials accused Aliyev of seeking to effectively strip the Islamic Republic of a common border with Armenia. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian likewise warned in October that any “changes in the region’s map” are unacceptable to his country.
Raisi spoke with Pashinian five days after his government decided to open an Iranian consulate in Syunik’s administrative center, Kapan.
Armenian pundits and politicians welcomed the decision. Vartan Voskanian, one of the country’s leading Iran experts, said it shows “just how important Syunik is to official Tehran in the context of Armenian-Iranian relations.”
Raisi on Monday hailed “progress” made in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations mostly mediated by Russia. “We hope that other issues between the two countries will be resolved peacefully within the framework of international principles and law,” he said.
A statement issued by Raisi’s office said Pashinian briefed the Iranian president on the talks with Baku.
It also cited both leaders as stressing the need to deepen commercial ties between Armenia and Iran. An Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation should take “big steps” in that direction, Raisi said, according to the statement.
A much shorter readout of the phone call released by the Armenian government said Pashinian and Raisi discussed bilateral ties and “processes taking place in the region.” It made no explicit mention of the Armenian-Azerbaijani transport issues.