YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A senior Iranian security official was reported to call for the expansion of his country’s economic and political relations with neighboring Armenia at the start of a three-day visit to Yerevan on Tuesday.
Ali Bagheri, deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme Security Council, met with Artur Baghdasarian, head of a similar body advising President Serzh Sarkisian on national security, and other senior Armenian officials.
“The parties stressed the need to raise Armenian-Iranian relations to a strategic level,” Baghdasarian’s office said in a statement. It said the two men discussed ways of implementing large-scale bilateral projects such as the construction of railway linking Armenia to Iran and a pipeline to deliver Iranian petrol and diesel fuel to the South Caucasus state.
Bagheri also discussed the projects at separate talks with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two "determined the programs for the near future" and "exchanged views on a number of issues related to regional security and stability."
Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said on Monday that work on the 300 kilometer pipeline will start next year and take two years. He said Yerevan and Tehran will each cover half of its cost estimated at between $200 million and $240 million.
Earlier this month, the two governmen’s inaugurated the final section of another pipeline that will enable Armenia to import natural gas from Islamic Republic. Movsisian and other officials in Yerevan have not yet announced any dates for the start of Iranian gas supplies, though.
Bagheri also met with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, they discussed the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other “issues relating to regional security and stability.” A ministry statement said they agreed that the Armenian-Iranian relationship contributes to that stability. Ohanian was also quoted as praising Iran’s “balanced position” on the Karabakh conflict.