Armenian, Iranian Ties Discussed in Yerevan

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–The speaker of Armenia’s National Assembly, Hovik Abrahamian, met on Thursday with Iran’s Ambassador to Armenia, Seyid Ali Saghayan, for talks on economic ties between the two neighboring countries.

According to the National Assembly’s press office, Abrahamian stressed the importance of economic cooperation between the countries, which are “expanding from year to year.’

Abrahamian also invited the Iranian Parliament’s Armenian Friendship group to visit Armenia, describing antiparliamentary dialogue as the foundation for strengthening ties between the two countries. He added that further development in all the economic spheres will bear fruit in energy cooperation programs as well.

Saghayan, for his part, invited Abrahamian to visit Iran, noting that interparliamentary relations “greatly promote the consolidation of ties between the two countries.” Abrahamian said he will visit Tehran in 2009.

During the meeting, Abrahamian also praised Iran’s “neutral and balanced position” on Nagorno Karabakh.

The governmen’s of the two countries have been discussing ways of implementing an ambitious project to build a railway link. The lack of a rail link between them is seen as a major hindrance to the development of Armenian-Iranian commercial ties as well as the use of Iranian territory in Armenia’s transport communication with the outside world.

The Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, completed in October, ahead of schedule, is one example of a similar, large-scale project with its southern neighbor Iran.

On September 10, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisian told Armenian media that Armenia will be able to import up to 2.3-2.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas Iranian gas beginning November. Iran reportedly plans to export some 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas to Armenia annually, and will increase that number gradually to reach 2.3 billion cubic meters by 2019, according to the Armenian Ministry of Energy’s website.

In-exchange Armenian exports of electricity reportedly began on October 5.

Iran was reportedly ready to start supplies of gas to Armenia by October 13. But recent statemen’s from Yerevan indicate some hesitation. Armenia’s Energy Ministry earlier last week affirmed that Armenia "does not yet have a need" for Iranian gas.

The decision to hold off on launching the pipeline is seen by some as a result of pressure from Russia, which controls nearly 80 percent of Armenia’s energy system. Armenia’s move to purchase gas from Iran has stirred speculation that Armenia may be attempting to pull away from Russia. This has many analysts speculated a Russian role in the decision to postpone the launch of the new pipeline.

But with the Russian supplies meeting Armenia’s needs, the Yerevan authorities have always intended to convert Iranian gas into electricity that will be exported to the Islamic Republic.

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