Iran’s Ahmadinejad Seeks to Establish Closer Ties with Armenia

(RFE/RL)–Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that his government intends to deepen the Islamic Republic’s ties with Armenia "in all areas."

A statement by President Robert Kocharian’s office said Ahmadinejad assured visiting chief of Kocharian’s staff Artashes Tumanian–on Tuesday that the relationship between the two neighboring states will remain "at a high level." He was cited as promising his personal support for the work of an Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.

Tumanian–who is the commission’s Armenian co-chairman–passed on to Ahmadinejad a written message from Kocharian. A statement from his press service said that President Kocharian "expressed hope that the existing friendly relations between Armenia and Iran will continue in the same spirit to the benefit of the Armenian and Iranian peoples."

The statement did not specify if Kocharian invited his Iranian counterpart to visit Armenia in the near future.

Tumanian met the Iranian leader on the third day of his official visit to Tehran–and described his talks with senior Iranian officials there as productive. The talks appear to have focused on bilateral projects in the energy sector. Energy Minister Armen Movsisian was among senior Armenian officials who accompanied Tumanian.

A separate statement by Kocharian’s office said the Armenian delegation discussed with Iran’s Energy Minister Parviz Fatah the ongoing construction of a pipeline which will ship Iranian natural gas to Armenia. Work on the pipeline is due to be completed by the end of 2007.

Armenia is expected to pay for the Iranian gas with electricity to be generated by a half-complete power plant in the central town of Hrazdan. The Armenian government decided earlier this year to sign a management contract with a state-run Iranian company that pledged to complete the facility. Accordingly–the plant will be the main recipient of the Iranian gas.

The two states also plan to construct a major hydro-electric plant on the Arax River on the Armenian-Iranian border.

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