Iran Wants to Lease Armenian Pasture Land

Sheep grazing on Urtsasar mountains

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian and Iranian authorities are negotiating on the possible lease by Iranian sheep and cattle breeders of mountain pastures in southeastern Armenia, it was officially confirmed on Friday.

“Various foreign investors willing to breed ship and cattle in Armenia come up with such proposals regarding not only Syunik but other regions of the republic,” Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian said, commenting on reports about the possibility of such a deal that began circulating last week.

A senior official in Armenia’s Syunik province clarified that the Iranian side has officially offered to rent thousands of hectares of land in the mountainous region adjacent to Iran. “They want to rent pastures and graze their ship and cattle there. Right now things are under discussion,” Samvel Tangian, head of the agriculture department at the provincial administration, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (

Tangian confirmed that the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province bordering Armenia, Alireza Beigi, and Iranian businessmen accompanying him expressed such interest when they visited Syunik this summer. He said Surik Khachatrian, the Syunik governor, will visit East Azerbaijan in January for further discussions on the matter.

The official indicated that the Syunik administration is ready in principle to rent out some of at least 4,000 hectares of pastures which he said are not being used by local farmers because of their remoteness and a lack of livestock. But he declined to comment on the length and cost of the possible lease, saying that the two sides have not reached any concrete agreements yet. “At this point there is only their desire,” added Tangian.

Gevorgian, who is also Armenia’s minister for local government, likewise said that nothing has been agreed upon “in the formal sense.” Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan, he said the Armenian government is interested in seeing all domestic pastures generate revenue for local communities. For that purpose, the government is ready to consider similar arrangements in another southeastern Armenian region, Vayots Dzor, he said.

Babken Mkrtchian, head of Vayots Dzor’s agricultural department, revealed that the provincial administration itself has offered the Iranians to graze livestock on local pastures. He said officials and commercial farmers from Iran will visit Vayots Dzor next spring to inspect lands.

“We also have an agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Mkrtchian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service ( “A businessman from there has visited and selected [pastures] and intends to develop ship breeding there soon.”

The last few years have seen an upsurge in exports of sheep from Armenia to Iran. Those exports reportedly ground to a half this autumn because of the tightening of international economic sanctions against Tehran and the resulting sharp depreciation of the Iranian national currency.


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  1. Aleco said:

    Think and learn from History and do not sell your land.
    OK. They need meat this is a market.
    Why lease our land not knowing where the money goes and who
    profits and what is going to happen when we want back our land.
    The agriculture ministry of Armenia can establish a company and
    sell shears (each shear equal to the price of one sheep) to Armenians in
    Armenia and diaspora I think many will join thinking its better
    to sell or as you say lease our land.
    Doing so Armenia will profit:
    1. Some jobs will be created
    2. There will be more profit in selling the meat.
    3. More countries will be interested buying the product
    and and and
    More important we will remain master of our land

    • GB said:

      This is more political offer from Iran, and a corrupt, or stupid Armenian official, yes node signal, to this unhealthy discussion!! Iran has millions of hectare of pasture lands in East and West Azerbaijan provinces!!

  2. Kilikia said:

    Great, what’s next, lease out Armenia as well while they’re at it? How about Armenians breed the sheep and cattle, and sell them to Iran and Saudi Arabia? Create jobs for Armenians and increase exports of sheep, instead of creating jobs for Iranians and Saudis and increasing exports of Armenians…

  3. hrair said:

    This issue should be regarded and apposed with the same determination and force, that the whole nation apposed the so called “Turkish Armenian reconciliation” agreement that was brutally forced on the Armenian nation few years back. This issue does smell new uncontrolled revenues for corrupt governors and officials to make easy money. This sort of arrangement will pose a grave danger to local fauna and ecology as a whole. The same officials who do not hesitate to sale the forests and ecologically important natural reserves to foreign miners , the same officials who shamefully close eye to and based on some report benefit from human trafficking of young girls to neighboring states are to now be in charge of leasing vast areas of land to foreigners and for what? Have they ever been accountable for administering public wealth or haven’t they manipulated and abused their power so far to benefit from the same? When have this people been responsible and accountable to the people of Armenia? Do we all need more proof?
    In short they have no morality or the right to complete this sort of land lease. While the revenues will surely benefit them personally the damage to the nature will be huge and mostly permanent. Armenian people know very well how the Azerbaijani Turks and other Turkic peoples established themselves in the Armenian highland in the first place. Yes, by ship grazing in our mountains first, then the shepherd’s families moved in and so on. And what is the difference between Southern Azerbaijanis and the northern ones? When Azerbaijanis moved in to Armenian highland the northern Azerbaijanis were under Iranian rule also. The political situation changed and the Northern Azerbaijanis are on their own now, and under the direct orders of Turkey. So who can say the same is not possible if things change tomorrow.
    I think the whole Armenian society should mobilize against this sort of arrangement; the lands should not be leased to anyone. Instead, more favorable conditions should be established for locals to establish similar livestock breeding ventures free and clear of harassment of the ruling oligarchs and corrupt officials. Tomorrow might be too late, this is truly a catastrophic mistake and the whole society should mobilize to stop this disaster of national proportions. Hands of the sacred soil of Armenia.

    • said:

      Iranians on the other side of the border are not turks!

      The bordering Iranian province is historically and rightfully called East Azerbaijan. This has nothing to do with the artificially created Turkish bastard Sultanate of Azerbaijan.

      Yes, people there speak a Turkic dialect due to a Turkish yoke which lasted for 200 years or so. However, their civilization is not nomadic.

      • GB said:

        What ever the word of “leasing” is not a healthy word for a location like Syunik, we should produce our own livestock and sale them by Armenian or world standard!! leasing in that part of the world means giving away the rights of Armenians to Iran!!
        Yes if Iran lease a land in Canada or France or Russia, would be a different choice, than in Armenia!! How about if Iran lease entire Armenia? then we will be a province of Iran, like Erivan Khanate!!

      • hrair said:

        I know that what you are saying is happened to be the official line of the Iranian government on the matter, and maybe what you have been taught at school but I beg to differ. We Armenians might also be inclined to wish and believe that it was true, but I’m afraid it is not. Give few years and weaker central government in Tehran and you’ll see how Turkey and Turkish culture and Identity gets hold of the whole region. The Northern Azerbaijan is inhabited with the same people, once the territory passed to Russian rule in early 1800s the same population embraced the Turkish Identity, the same scenario is not far from becoming a reality once political control and dominance of Tehran weakens. Besides this important factor which can bring allots of emotions, the whole concept of leasing the land to foreigners instead of allowing the locals to cultivate it and benefit from it is at the hearth of the issue. The ecological adverse impact of sheep grazing, the erosion and desertification of the lands in question is another major concern that makes this whole drive unacceptable.

        • said:

          “The Northern Azerbaijan is inhabited with the same people, once the territory passed to Russian rule in early 1800s the same population embraced the Turkish Identity”

          This is factually not true. The territories passed to Russia were inhabited by indigenous peoples (Tolysh, Avar, Tat, Lezgi, etc.) who were good neighbors of ours (yes, sometimes we fought, as we also fought among ourselves) for millennia.

          These territories were turned into Turkic Azerbaijan by the invading Turkish army (Nuri Pasha – remember that they did not stop genocide in 1915?) and local nomadic Turkic tribes.

          Later, Lenin (whose father was a Tartar) and Stalin had a brilliant idea of creating a new artificial nation of “Azerbaijanis” by driving away native Armenians and turkifying the rest of the natives who were Muslim.

  4. hrair said:

    Is this to say that thousands of Armenian man and woman gave up their lives and died to liberate Armenian lands of Karabakh from Northern Azerbaijani Turks for it now to be lease to and to be given to the southern Azerbaijani Turks?
    This is treason of a first degree. Turk is a Turk, no matter what political formation it is temporarily under. They all dream of a pan-Turanism and destruction of Armenia. Have the southern Azerbaijani Turks admitted and condemned the Armenian genocide? Do they declared the Karabakh as part of the Armenia ? I don’t think so.

  5. hrair said:

    Growing up my father use to tell me how the Turkic nomads first moved in to the Armenian highlands . They came grazing their sheep first and the rest moved in after the herds…
    Is history repeating front of our eyes? Are we to allow it? Wake up people, this is national interest and issue.

  6. Vazken said:

    In Australia, there are farms sold to Japanese, Chinese and Saudi Companies which are run by Australian farmers.
    The Australian Farmers Union have say in this precedence’s which has started about 40 years ago.
    Although the Australian Outback is preserved by Local and Governments agencies, an incident in 1980’s made headline around the world, when a Japanese Cult (religious group) moved in, bought a Farm in remote Western Australia and build laboratory for Chemical Weapon then Used on sheep: It which was discovered months later the Farm abandoned, with poisoned 200 dead Sheep. The Cult leader was caught in Japan… .

    • Vazken said:

      Correction; the year was September 1993.
      The remote farm in “Banjawarn” Western Australia.
      Japanese Aum group Cult.
      On 20 March 1995, the group released toxic sarin gas into part of the Tokyo subway system, killing 12 people and injuring over 1000.

  7. hrair said:

    To lease the pasture lands to Iranian/ Azerbaijani Turks is nothing less than treason of highest degree.
    It is selling the homeland for “few pieces of silver” as the saying/ tradition goes.
    All those who think it is not much to worry about should go back and read the famous story of the DADI VANK monastery land leases to the Azerbaijani Turks and Kurdish Nomads in 19the and early 20th centuries and all the complications associated with it. Not much has changed séance then or else we wouldn’t had to have a Karabakh war, wouldn’t had to sacrifice thousands of lives.
    As most of you know the Dadi Vank is a famous monastic complex in the north west of Karabakh / Artsak region.
    Over the centuries this monastery accumulated vast amount of land holdings all around it and even owned entire villages donated to it by the local Armenian noble families and princes. The Turkic and Kurdish nomads started leasing some of the lands to graze their sheep as it had fertile pastures “ hint- hint” and once they got really established , multiplied (as they do) and comfortable there they just started to refuse to move or to honor the lease agreements. They just resorted to what worked for them before, that is to violence and terror. It took few brave Russian trained lawyers from Tbilisi’s Armenian community to establish the rights of the Vank/ monastery over the lands and to enforce the nomads to pay rent. It took few dozen years, many lives, and even then the problem was not fully resolved as the court verdicts and the land deeds in favor of the Armenian Church did not have the power and the force of the local Turkish and Kurdish violence and brutality, their medieval dark ways. And, all this under the strict rules and controls of czarist Russian mighty empire. This is just one of many such stories, most in similar situations, especially the ones under Turkish Ottoman rule as we know were not as fortunate as the Dadi Vank as they did not enjoy the protection of Russian lwas.
    Now what makes our newly hatched vise and all virtuous “leaders” ( oh we all know their virtues, don’t we?) and “entrepreneurs” (thieves?) Think that they are making a wise decision or have the right to administer and seal such deals?
    I say NO to this without any hesitation. The whole Armenian nation should oppose it and Now.
    I’m sorry to take so much space , this story/ new just touched a core in me… this is just too upsetting…

    • Rubo said:

      Hrair, I share your views completely, what action do you suggest to take?

      • hrair said:

        Dear Rubo, I’m not a specialist on this matters and I’m sure a specialist in the field will have more professional suggestions , but all it takes in this case is common sense and a little dose of caring.
        #1) For the beginning it would be wise to establish a land use commission open and accountable to public, NGOs , environmental groups, etc. ( if there isn’t one already).
        #2) To establish and produce an extensive environmental study and recommendations under the Academy of sciences of Armenia which can study the viability of potential benefits and to measure the environmental impact (negative or positive).
        #3) To have a accountable public structure to regulate the land use and to make sure the resources are used wisely and with least possible adverse effects to the local nature/ environment.
        #4) To create competitive and healthy investment atmosphere for the LOCAL farmers/ investor to raise sheep or other livestock and sale the meet/ etc locally or internationally.
        #5) To provide the local farmers / villagers with all needed assistance and conditions to make it profitable for them to engage in this business. That may include financial and logistic help, healthy business atmosphere free of arbitrary autocratic interference and obstacles.
        The reason many locals leave the country and migrate to other countries rather than to stay and make a living in Armenia is as we all know high level of corruption and existence of artificial barriers imposed by government workers or the oligarchs. People leave because the laws are not being enforced or are enforced one sided.
        In any event, leasing the lands to some foreign investors is not good option in a country where there is over abundance of unemployed workers and in a country where this natural resources are so little and precious ( lick of land, etc), In a country that cannot yet guaranty what it signs under, and or that the people of the country will benefit from this lease. The chance that the benefits will flow to the packets of some corrupt official is almost guaranteed in this situation as it is often has been the case with the mining lease revenues. Armenia will further turn into a” BANANA REPUBLIC” with impoverished and destitute local voiceless, marginalize population. The locals should be empowered and allowed to utilize the local resources and benefit from it.

  8. jack said:

    another way to fill up few armenian governments pockets ,no armenian ordinary people will benefit from such

  9. Mihran said:

    Sadly, in Armenia today everything is up for sale under this corrupt regime,don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and hear that Artsakh has also been sold.

  10. George said:

    Why the hell lease land if you have so many people unimployed and are working on a miserable pay, are Armenian’s going crazy?

  11. vartan said:


  12. Avetis said:

    Why is it that reading comments made by “Amerika-hays” makes me want to pull my hair out?

    • hrair said:

      Number one , maybe because you have hair to pull out in the first place and secondly , because Armenians in Armenia are keep on doing such a “wonderful” job last 20 years themselves…
      Should I start listing the “progress” report of their achievements? Or we can both keep silent and thus will save each other’s nerves …

      • said:

        Please, do us a favor, go ahead and list Armenia’s achievements in the last 20 years!

        I’ll start with “The Diaspora” achievements: years 1992-2012 – Kept begging third country corrupt politicians to say the G word.

        • said:

          Asbarez just publicized another great accomplishment by The Diaspora – Genocide claims case attorneys embezzled millions of dollars needed by Armenian charities and now make headlines by doing what they know best – suing each other. Go The Diaspora!!

  13. said:

    It says in the article – “not being used by local farmers because of their remoteness”

    I’m not sure what it really means, but one explanation could be that it’s hard to get there over the mountains and probably easier from Iran’s side. They were not thinking about local ranchers when they were drawing borders between Russian Empire and Persia.

    • hrair said:

      NO, it does not mean what you assume, all it means the local opportunist officials can and will personally benefit by leasing this lands. Than they will pocket the money, in the best scenario will reinvest in the country, or it will be business as usual, they will flee with the money to Europe or further. The same autocrats create insurmountable difficulties for the local investors and abort any positive progress. To lease the land will be a convenient way for them to pocket bribes and do back door deals without local overview.
      The locals should use the land, raise sheep , etc. and sale the meet.
      There was so much studies and talk during the perestroika years in Armenia (late 1980s) that the overgrazing and or sheep grazing specially and particularly causes irreversible damage to local flora/ nature, it specially contributes to the erosion of the land and that it should be limited. The damage caused during soviet years was documented and substantiated.

  14. armenian said:

    common sense would say 1. Hire and use proper lawyers. 2. establish local businesses.3.invest in growing the business , employing local people to create employment and a flourishing nation. 4. start overhauling the uneducated people running the country so the trained experts can develop the nation and then diasporan armenians will be more willing to come to armenia.
    I have so much energy to put into my nation, but if it is run with the wrong people creating illogical laws, sorry to say, armenians deserve anything they get.
    Iranians i think are the same as turks, i wouldnt trust them any more and wouldnt want to be forced into business with them !

  15. MGL said:

    I thought Armenia is a small country. But based on this article, it is still too big for the remaining Armenians.
    And what Armenians will do with the Western Armenia, when Turkey returns it? Lease it back to Turks?
    And then keep crying even more and louder?

  16. fereydoun barkeshli said:

    This looks interesting.It is very important if countries of the region cooperate and make their economies complimentary.They specialise and produce goods and services that are exportable to earch other.In fact this is how a common market is shaped.Like the European common market that was created bacl in 1950’s between Germany,France and Luxamburg.I am glad to read this report.

    • Joe said:

      Yet better, let’s lease the parliamentarians and all those who put them there

    • armenian said:

      good idea ! lease all the people causing the reversing of armenia, its time we moved forward !!

  17. Robert said:

    Can we lend our officials to East Azerbaijan? At least, we’ll get something out of them.

  18. Artziv said:

    It’s one thing for Armenians to produce sheep for export to neighboring countries where there is demand, another thing to “lease” Armenian lands to neighboring countries to meet this demand. One is ecomonic development, the other outright treachry. I predict a very heavy personal price for those involved in this treacherous activity. If the true stated purpose is for the land to produce income for the local communities, then investing in livestock is the obvious answer, and the justification of a lack of livestock, was itself artificially created with the massive sale sheep to Iran over the past year.
    The stench of treachery is in the air. To the turks on this site, your cancerous, weedlike nature is all too apparant as you can’t even respect territory in cyberspace. I predict there will be far too few of you for all the lands you occupy, although this prediction will take longer to manifest it’ll be sooner than you think. You can not “give” us what is ours.

    • armenian said:

      To the turks on this site, your cancerous, weedlike nature is all too apparant as you can’t even respect territory in cyberspace
      ….PRECISELY !

  19. An Armenian said:

    Slowly but surely, the groundwork for the complete and total destruction of Armenia is under way. I doubt all of the Iranian Azeris who will probably be getting a stake in the Armenian economy are going to turn their backs on their Azerbaijani brethren. When given the option, they will choose to unite with them instead of keeping Armenia Armenian any day of the week. I am shocked and horrified by how short-sighted Armenians are. By the time they realize that it’s too late to do anything, I’m sure Armenia will be within hours of ceasing to exist.

  20. vartan said:


  21. Joe said:

    Kurds did the same thing in ancient Armenia now they claim those lands are theirs.

  22. armenian said:

    Kurds, azeris, turks, even to an extent iranians think they own armenia, why is armenian history always filled with others wanting our lands, it makes me sick to the pit of my stomach ! how on earth are we ever going to be smarter and stronger ???

  23. Atanjeo said:

    Iran is big enough to triple the cattle livestock. The only thing is to green back the arid (desert) areas. Right now there are some very good technics to stop desertification without much money investing.
    Go to youtube an search after:
    – Successful planting Dubai desert with the Groasis Waterboxx
    – (“permaculture + jordanien”)
    – al baydha

    Just some ideas, i know about a dozen other sucessful projects! If you are interest contact me: Alexander-Karl (at)