Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said Yerevan’s relations with Iran are advancing through active dialogue encompassing an extensive agenda. His remarks to reporters Thursday was aimed at reassuring Tehran over Armenia’s announced plans to open an embassy in Israel.
Mnatsakanyan’s remarks come two days after about two dozen Iranian university students held a demonstration in front of Armenia’s Embassy in Tehran protesting Yerevan’s decision, announced last September, to open an embassy in Tel Aviv. Demonstrators chanted “death to Israel” and burned an Israeli flag.
While saying that Armenia has its own interests to advance, Mnatsakanyan told reporters that Yerevan has never and it will not pursue relations with one partner at the expense of another.
“We have more than a handful of examples of how Armenia combines its policies with various partners, its key partners, while also pursuing its own interests and not harming the various developments that affect our national security,” Mnatsakanyan said.
“We have very clear plans for the development of bilateral relations at all levels. In this period, the permanent dialogue between Armenia’s Prime Minister and the President of Iran continues, there has been a very clear conversation in terms of advancing our programs. At the level of foreign ministers, a very clear dialogue has been maintained,” Mnatsakanyan added.
The foreign minister’s comments echoed those made by Armenia’s Ambassador to Iran Artashes Toumanian, who since Tuesday’s protest has met with a high-level official at Iran’s foreign ministry to reassure Tehran that its relations with Yerevan remain strong.
Armenia’s Embassy in Iran said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that during a meeting on Wednesday with Mohsen Faghani, the head of the Caucasus Department at Iran’s foreign ministry, the two discussed the anti-Israeli protest, with the Iranian official noting “dissatisfactions” in certain “circles” with Yerevan’s plans to open an embassy in Israel, which Faghani said “will not affect relations between” Iran and Armenia.
However, according to the statement by Armenia’s Embassy in Tehran, Faghani went on to voice concerns regarding the strengthening of Israel’s influence in its neighboring country. Toumanian assured Faghani that Yerevan would never engage in anti-Iranian policies.
Toumanian recalled a meeting he had on March 15 with Alireza Haghighian, the head of Eurasian Affairs at Iran’s foreign ministry, during which he presented Yerevan’s aims for opening an embassy in Israel that included the strengthening of Armenia’s presence in the Middle East and preserving the rich cultural and historical Armenian heritage in Jerusalem—the Holy Land.
The March meeting came on the same day that Iran officially expressed its concerns over Yerevan’s move to open an embassy in Israel. Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a senior adviser to Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani, had announced on March 15 that the move will have a “negative impact on stability and security in the region” and urged Yerevan to “think twice” before opening the mission in Tel Aviv.
While Israel and Armenia established diplomatic relations in 1992, there has not been a diplomatic representation on each other’s land.
Relations with Israel have traditionally been muted, mainly due to concerns by Armenia about Israel’s continued supply of arms to Azerbaijan. During the 2016 April War, Artsakh soldiers downed several Azerbaijani drones that were made in Israel. In 2017, it was revealed that an Israeli arms contractor was forced to carry out a live demonstration of its weaponized drones on Artsakh targets. Furthermore, Israel continues to refuse to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Faghani and Toumanian agreed that Iran-Armenia relations were at their highest level, praising the cooperation between the two countries during the COVID-19 crisis.