YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian praised Iran’s “pivotal role in the region” Wednesday, describing the Islamic Republic as a “reliable partner and country” as he held talks with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
The Iranian diplomat was in the Armenian capital for a two-day visit, which officials said focused on bilateral economic ties and, in particular, the implementation of more multimillion-dollar commercial projects approved by the two governments. He was scheduled to be attending a meeting of the Armenian-Iranian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation.
“You now that we attach great importance to the relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. You know that we view you as a reliable partner and a country, which plays a pivotal role in the region,” Sarkisian told Mottaki, according to his press office.
“Therefore, the development and deepening of bilateral relations stems from our interests,” he said, adding that the projects discussed by Yerevan and Tehran will serve that purpose.
The Armenian leader referred to the planned construction of a pipeline to deliver Iranian petrol to Armenia, a railway linking the two neighboring nations, and a big hydro-electric station on the Arax river marking their border. The ambitious plans dominated a meeting in Yerevan of an Armenian-Iranian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation that was chaired by Mottaki and Energy Minister Armen Movsisian. The two men sounded satisfied with its results at a joint news conference held later on Wednesday.
“It is important that we are aiming to achieve quick results during the negotiations and that the negotiations themselves are direct and transparent,” said Mottaki.
Movsisian said the two sides made further progress on all three projects but announced no dates for the start of their implementation. He said the Iranian government is ready to help Armenia finance work on the Armenian section of the would-be railway which experts say could cost as much as $2 billion. He did not elaborate, though.
Official Armenian sources said Mottaki also discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and Armenia’s rapprochement with Turkey during his talks with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, he welcomed Armenia’s efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations.
The Foreign Ministry also said that the two men agreed that the “periodic high-level meetings and reciprocal visits” speak to “the willingness to further develop the cooperation between Armenia and Iran.”
Sarkisian was reported to again thank Iran for its “balanced” position on the Karabakh conflict. Mottaki, for his part, reiterated Tehran’s support for the conflict’s peaceful resolution. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to offer any assistance Armenia and Azerbaijan in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he told journalists.
The Iranian minister arrived in Yerevan on Tuesday just one week after former President Robert Kocharian’s surprise visit to Tehran during which he met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mottaki. Kocharian’s office and the Sarkisian administration have described the trip as private.
Mottaki confirmed that he personally invited to Sarkisian’s predecessor to visit Iran. “When friends meet up, they speak about their friendship, areas of cooperation, past good memories and discuss prospects for the future,” he said of Kocharian’s talks.