Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Visits Armenia

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.

15 thoughts on “Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Visits Armenia

  1. Reply
    Onnik Krikorian - 23.10.2007

    We obviously have a very different understanding of the word “international headline.” Certainly, Ahmadinejad’s visit was not major news and while the Genocide resolution was covered worldwide as a major and sometimes top news story, I doubt many reputable TV stations or newspapers covered his visit to Armenia. Local and Russian agencies are another matter.
    Now, if he were here to discuss nuclear cooperation, then maybe, but as it was I just don’t think his visit was of any interest apart from to regional analysts. Certainly, there was nothing much for bloggers to find of any note, in my opinion. Perhaps one line or paragraph in the international newspapers, or a passing mention in any larger piece on Iran, but no. Maybe 300-400 words along with a zillion other such stories? Perhaps.
    Sorry, not interesting as a quick browse of the BBC and CNN news web sites shows. Besides, there was other news about Iran that was of far more interest and which was published ignoring the visit by Ahmadinejad. Now, had media-freedom, civil-rights, gay rights activists or Iranian students protested in Yerevan, it would be something different.
    However, sorry, I disagree. This wasn’t a major news story although the larger issue of Armenian-Iranian relations is of course something to keep on eye on. Bordonaro’s second answer you quote is interesting, but hardly earth-shattering news. Still, for Iran watchers your round-up will be interesting, but there’s no reason to expect any international or blogging coverage, in my opinion.
    On the other hand, perhaps now there is at least one aspect of his visit that is significant. That is, he cut his visit short. He was meant to visit the Genocide memorial, the Mosque and hold a number of meetings, but he didn’t.

    Ahmadinejad cancelled a series of events on Tuesday and was due to leave the Armenian capital Yerevan for Tehran on a late-morning flight, an official in Armenian presidential press service said, without providing an explanation.
    “There have been changes in the programme of the Iranian president’s visit. He will return to Tehran before the planned time,” the official said.

    That for me is newsworthy and when we hear speculation as to the reason why, I think this becomes a story, although still not a major international one. Instead, I would include mention of that in any story on Iran depending on what those reasons where.

  2. Reply

    […] Armenian Observer covers Ahmadinejad’s visit in more detail. Posted by Onnik @ 1:26 pm. Filed under: Armenia, Politics, Economy, Caucasus, Transport, […]

  3. Reply
    Onnik Krikorian - 23.10.2007

    BTW: Artmika has an example of the kind of stuff blogs should be about, in my opinion. I just hope that second photograph isn’t for real.
    http://gayarmenia.blogspot.com/2007/09/ahmadinejad-no-homosexuals-in-iran.html
    If it is, then I would have liked to have seen Yerevan’s gay community or even Sksela picket and protest his visit.

  4. Reply
    reporter_arm - 23.10.2007

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not visit Tsitsernakaberd today morning and cancelled his speech in the Parliament. He cut short his two-day official visit to Armenia and returned earlier to Iran than it was planned.
    As reported by Mediamax, .

  5. Reply
    Onnik Krikorian - 23.10.2007

    reporter_arm, any updates as to the reason why?

  6. Reply
    Onnik Krikorian - 23.10.2007

    Anyway, now he’s left early for still unknown reasons it becomes interesting:

    Ahmadinejad Cuts 2-Day Visit to Armenia Short
    YEREVAN, Armenia — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cut short his two-day visit to Armenia on Tuesday, an Armenian presidential spokesman said.* The Armenian government had expected Ahmadinejad to address parliament and, in what was likely to cause controversy, plant a sapling at a memorial commemorating the victims of what Armenians consider genocide.
    Viktor Sogomonian, press secretary of Armenian President Robert Kocharian, gave no reason for the Iranian president’s decision to skip both planned events and return to Iran.
    Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency, citing an unnamed source, said the decision was connected with unexpected developments in Iran.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,304248,00.html

  7. Reply
    Onnik Krikorian - 23.10.2007

    Ok, I’m guessing it has to do with the resignation on Sunday of Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and a letter supporting him signed by 180 Iranian MPs.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7057837.stm
    Like I said, this is news. I mean, for Armenia to be interesting the topics of main interest are clear i) International Genocide Recognition, ii) Nagorno Karabakh peace possibilities and iii) elections.
    For Iran at present it’s mainly nuclear which is why that subject is about the only thing that would make Ahmadinejad’s visit to Yerevan of specific interest as a world story.

  8. Reply
    Onnik Krikorian - 23.10.2007

    Ooops, that last comment was from me. I’m sitting in an IT company in Yerevan where I’m helping set up some blogs and someone left themselves logged in on this computer. Change the poster name for the last comment and this one if you like.
    BTW: Talking of which, the company wants to hire bloggers here in Armenia with good English writing skills so if any of you out there is interested please send me an email (address is on my blog).

  9. Reply
    reporter_arm - 23.10.2007

    Onnik, Here is info from AFP,

  10. Reply
    reporter_arm - 23.10.2007

    Onnik, here is information from AFP:
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cut short a two-day visit to Armenia due to the domestic political situation and key talks on the Iranian nuclear issue in Rome, a diplomatic source here told AFP.

  11. Reply
    Observer - 23.10.2007

    Onnik – when I was writing this post early this morning, I was preparing to be away for the whole day – but I was also sure, that my beloved president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would definately do something to make his visit newsworthy (and I honestly quite like him, except when he starts talking lol about the Holocast or absence of Gays in Iran). However, I’m really disappointed, I was waiting to come back and write about the tree he planted at the Genocide museum – which I’m sure would have been a killer story. Oh well!

  12. Reply
    Nanul - 26.10.2007

    What do you like about the guy? He looks like Uncle Kindness but in reality….. There is so much more than just the denial of Holocaust and absence of gays. You should have seen the video where their “police” was stopping young women on the streets for not wearing head scarves or for some other stupid reason and forcing them into their cars. Women were screaming and yelling hysterically, but nobody was paying attention. Now I can’t remember if it was on TV or on Youtube.

  13. Reply
    artmika - 26.10.2007

    I posted the video and BBC report in April in my blog here:
    http://unzipped.blogspot.com/2007/04/modern-day-opression.html
    just checked again – video is no longer available…

  14. Reply
    Observer - 26.10.2007

    Nanul – the thing is I don’t like Bush, so anything or anyone standing up to him, is potentially ‘likable’ to me. In the modern Geopolitical situation Ahmadinedjad is the antidote for Bush. That is all that I like about him.

  15. Reply
    kronstadt - 02.11.2007

    I wonder when Hugo Chavez comes to Armenia? Maybe the time when Armenia also withdraws from the Coalition of the willing.
    😉

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