Kocharian Wraps Up Iran Visit

TEHRAN (RFE/RL–Armenpress)–President Robert Kocharian Thursday ended a two-day visit to Tehran during which he and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the strengthening of the already close economic and political links between Armenia and Iran–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The two men met twice and presided over the signing of seven Iranian-Armenian agreemen’s covering a broad range of areas on Wednesday. One of the agreemen’s paves the way for the construction of a third transmission line that will connect the power grids of the two neighboring states.

The high-voltage line will allow for a substantial increase in exports of Armenian electricity to Iran after the construction of a pipeline which is due to start pumping Iranian natural gas into Armenia next year. Yerevan borrowed $34 million from Tehran to finance the ongoing work on the first Armenian section of the pipeline and will repay the loan with electricity supplies.

Ahmadinejad and Kocharian were widely expected to discuss the under-construction pipeline and–in particular–Russia’s desire to control it. However–they were not reported to have mentioned the issue at their joint news conference. The two leaders only stressed–in general terms–the need for their nations to bolster their relationship which Ahmadinejad said has a "huge potential."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes and supports the development of ties with Armenia in various areas–particularly in energy fields as well as transportation–sports–and tourism," The Tehran Times daily quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "I hope the Armenian president’s trip to Iran would serve as an important step toward the development of all-out ties between the two countries."

Kocharian–for his part–reportedly welcomed "noticeable progress" in the development of Iranian-Armenian ties–while calling for unspecified "new steps" to implement bilateral agreemen’s signed in the past. He also threw his weight behind an extremely ambitious idea to build a rail link between Armenia and Iran.

It is not clear whether mounting international tensions over Iran’s controversial nuclear program were also on the agenda of Kocharian’s separate talks with Ahmadinejad and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Armenian officials have repeatedly expressed hope for a "diplomatic" solution to the dispute. Yerevan fears that possible US military action against Iran could thwart the implementation of Armenian-Iranian energy projects and have other unpredictable consequences.

Kocharian highlighted Iran’s significance for Armenia by choosing to publicly shake hands with Ahmadinejad and invite him to Yerevan at a time when Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West is coming to a crunch. The Iranian president is facing Western ostracism for his hard line on the issue and public denials of the Holocaust.

Before wrapping up his trip–Kocharian met with the Armenian community of Iran to hear their ideas about how to boost cooperation between Armenia and the community and other Armenia-Diaspora related issues–reported the Armenpress news agency.

The Armenian-Iranian community commended the "One Nation-One Culture" festival organized and held for the third consecutive time by Armenian authorities–suggesting that this festival may be taken beyond Armenia to the countries with strong Armenian communities.

The community members pledged active participation in the third Armenia-Diaspora conference scheduled for September in Yerevan.

During the meeting president Kocharian awarded the Armenian medal of Mkhitar Heratsi to prominent Iranian-Armenian psychiatrist Harmik Davtian.

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian positively assessed the results of Kocharian’s visit to Iran. He said the visit was important taking into consideration the fact that after the election of the new president a new team has been formed in Iran.

"Today the two countries aim to expand relations. In this respect we have executed quite positive changes," the foreign minister said–while underscoring the importance of the meeting of the two presidents.

Oskanian also emphasized the political importance of the visit–saying that quite serious developmen’s are taking place in the region–in which Iran is fully and actively involved and therefore–it is useful for the Armenia to be aware of Iran’s posturing on regional issues.

It is important that Iran–as a regional country–learns about the developmen’s in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh peace process directly from Armenia–explaining that Kocharian informed his Iranian counterpart about the developmen’s in that realm.

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