Kocharian High Ranking Officials Meet with Iranian Foreign Minister

KHARRAZI: STABILITY IN ARMENIA IS IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST OF IRAN

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)–Armenian president Robert Kocharian met today with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi–who arrived in Yerevan yesterday evening on the last leg of his visit to the Caucasus. Before arriving in Yerevan–Kharrazi held talks with top officials in Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Kharrazi also met with other high-ranking Armenian government officials–including Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–and Presidential Chief of Staff Artashes Toumanian.

Kharrazi conveyed greetings from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to Kocharian–reported the Armenian presidential press service–and the two sides discussed the upcoming official visit of the Iranian leader to Armenia.

Kocharian expressed satisfaction with the active level of Armenian-Iranian political contacts. The sides discussed the process of implementation of joint economic programs–and Kharrazi reaffirmed his country’s willingness to continue cooperation with Armenia. Close Armenia-Iran relations would strengthen stability in the region–he said.

MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER

Armenian Prime Minister Margarian stressed the need to expand the two countries’ bilateral cooperation–saying exchange visits between high-ranking officials would be an excellent means of bolstering mutual relations.

Kharrazi expressed hope that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia will help solidify Armenia’s political stability–which is important for Iran. "The Islamic Republic has always worked to promote peace and stability in the region," he said.

Kharrazi also stressed the need to more quickly implement economic projects between the two countries.

The Iranian Foreign Minister conveyed Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref’s invitation for Margarian to visit Tehran.

COUNTERPARTS DISCUSS REGIONAL ISSUES

The Armenian foreign ministry reported that the Iranian and Armenian foreign ministers were pleased with the current level of political–economic–and trade relations between the two nations.

The sides also underscored the importance of implementing several joint projects–including construction of a hydroelectric plant on the river Arax–which marks the Armenian-Iranian border–the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline–and the 40-kilometer Kajaran tunnel through a mountain pass in southeastern Armenia–projects–they said–that have not only economic but also political and regional significance.

In their meeting–Kharrazi and Oskanian also discussed the regulation of local conflicts. At Kharrazi’s request–Oskanian also spoke about the current stage of Karabagh negotiations.

JOINT NEWS CONFERENCE

"Bilateral relations with Iran are of great importance for Armenia–covering a wide range of spheres," said foreign minister Oskanian at the today’s joint news conference.

The sides discussed issues of mutual interest concerning the spheres of politics–economy–culture–and education–Oskanian stated–adding that although there is progress in the implementation of joint programs–it is time to speed up and complete those programs.

"We have also discussed regional issues. I presented to my Iranian counterpart the latest developmen’s in the process of the Karabagh conflict’s resolution. He–in turn–informed me about the position of Iran toward the events and processes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our dialogue was quite active and effective," Oskanian said.

Kharrazi’s said the level of relations between the two countries has increased very quickly. He stressed that the stability of Armenia coincides with the national interests of Iran.

Regarding regional issues–Kharrazi said that they must be resolved by the regional powers themselves. "Security in the Caucasus was discussed during our meetings. It is an integral part of our national interests," stressed Kharrazi.

He also said one of the goals of his visit was to help prepare the return visit of Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to Armenia. He did not state any concrete date–saying that it depends on the final discussion regarding the documen’s to be signed during the visit.

Iran and Armenia’share strained relations with their common neighbor Turkey and have been concerned about the spread of Turkish influence in the region since the Soviet collapse. Standing next to Kharrazi–Oskanian praised Tehran’s Armenian policy–which he said compares very favorably with Ankara’s staunchly pro-Azeri line.

"This is a vivid example of Iran’s much more skillful and balanced policy toward the region–which has had its positive effects," he said.

In an apparent reference to NATO–Kharrazi spoke out against "structures pursuing aims that do not stem from the interests of our region," while Oskanian again warned of "the emergence of new division lines in the region."

Kharrazi reiterated in this regard his country’s view that the regional states must address their security challenges without any external interference. He said Tehran wants to see the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolved "as soon as possible" and is ready to assist in the search for its peaceful settlement.

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