Armenia was once again in the world headlines owing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two day visit which started on October 22, 2007. Interestingly, the bloggers here paid close to zero attention to the major event – which is surprising, given the anti-Bush sentiment in recent days resulting from US President’s negative attitude towards Armenian genocide resolution in US Congress. The visit of the Iranian President was mostly a working one, although some media are trying to see connections with Russian president V. Putin’s visit to Iran a week ago and building various conspiracy theories.
Interfax reports: Iran and Armenia could cooperate in the implementation of energy and transport infrastructure projects, Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. “We have ample opportunity to broaden relations in the energy sector, especially in implementing oil, gas, electricity and transport projects, and in investment. We have held very effective talks, which would help expand the two countries’ infrastructure,” Ahmadinejad said at a press briefing in Yerevan on Monday after the signing of a package of Armenian-Iranian agreements.
Kocharian mentioned the project to build a gas pipeline liking Iran to Armenia, and the planned construction of an oil pipeline and of a railway. A new motorway, which will also have transit capabilities, is to be opened on October 26, Kocharian said. Armenia and Iran are linked by only one highway that cannot be used in the winter. A second motorway is to be opened soon, which will be used year round, he said. Kocharian also said that Armenia has serious plans to build an oil refinery with Iran.
Most of the President Ahmadinajad’s agenda was dominated by energy projects. Along with the projects mentioned above, Itar-Tass also mentions the construction of two wind power plants in Armenia by Iran, as well as agreements between the central banks of the two countries to cooperate in the banking sector. For these two countries stuck in a very uncomfortable neighborhood and having 2700 years of common history, much of which can be best described with the word “war” and “invasions”, unlike the wording used by media in both countries, about “century long friendship”, there is indeed no choice left but cooperate. The mutual ties deepen despite raised eyebrows in US, and Armenia seems to be benefiting the most:
As AP reports (via Yahoo!Finance): Earlier this month, Iran opened its borders to Armenian trucks transporting goods to Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea, a more direct route for goods destined to Central Asia or southern Russia than the alternative route through Georgia.
Kocharian was Ahmadinejad’s guest last year in Tehran, and in March the two presidents formally opened the first Armenian section of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries
RFE/RL have published a very interesting interview with Federico Bordonaro, a Rome-based senior analyst with the Power and Interest News Report, who has been asked to comment on various aspects of Armenia-Iran relations. I recommend you reading the full interview. For me – the following two comments were the most interesting.
Bordonaro: Armenia is very interesting because it does not reason in terms of bloc against bloc. Armenia is also pro-Western, we should not forget this. There are many reasons. There are cultural reasons. There are successful Armenian diasporas in the United States and France, for example. Armenia is sympathetic to the European Union. But at the same time, Armenia is not scared by Russia and Iran in the same way that the West is. So it is a very complex and interesting situation.
RFE/RL: How does Armenia’s geographic situation explain Yerevan’s readiness to work so closely with Moscow and Tehran?
Bordonaro: It is a landlocked country. When you are landlocked, you need access to the sea via [another country]. This is a powerful drive in the foreign policies of landlocked countries. And Armenia has no strategic resources. It is very dependent upon Russia and Iran. This is why Armenia cannot afford to make as dramatic a pro-Western turn as Georgia or Azerbaijan.