In a surprise move, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad postponed his Monday visit to Armenia at the very last minute. In fact, my friend, photojournalist Sedrak Mkrtchyan twitted, that he “had a useless trip to Airport in the morning” to take shots of the arriving president.
“The parties reached agreement to postpone the visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Armenia. The visit will be conducted at a mutually agreeable time,” the official statement on Armenian President’s website says.
The Iranian side had a more elaborate explanation, which is however, quite intriguing. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Monday, that the trip of Iranian President will come in another time since it takes more time to arrange and finalize the documents that are to be signed during the trip between the two countries.
Another Iranian official, deputy head of the Presidential Office for communications and information dissemination Mohammad-Hassan Salehi-Maram, essentially, accused Armenia for the cancellation of the visit.
“President’s visit to Yerevan was put off because the host country had not prepared the documents which were to be exchanged during this visit,” he said.
Vahan Hovhannisian, the head of ARF Dashnaktsutyun parliamentary group, made an interesting remark related to Ahmadinajad visit in the Parliament today.
“Most probably, certain issues were entered into the agenda of the Iranian President at the last moment, which needed more elaboration and coordination with Yerevan,” Dashnakstutyun leader said and added, that by “most probably” he means, that he has reliable information.
Hence, Hovhannisian seems to confirm the explanation given by the Iranian side – Armenia is the reason, why the Ahmadinejad trip was delayed.
But what could make Armenia make a last minute change in the agenda of a important strategic partner? Why at the last moment? And clearly, the last-minute cancellation of a state visit cannot be seen as a positive thing, even as the Iranian side claims the opposite.
Iran and Armenia have been having a sustained ‘honeymoon’ relationship over the past several years. The two countries are working together on several major infrustructure pojects, including the construction of a 500-800 megawatts power line with a capacity of linking their electricity grids, building two 180-megawatt hydroelectric dams on Araks river, which borders the two countries, as well as a 365-kilometre oil pipeline from Iranian city of Tabriz to Eraskh in Armenia.
All of these projects, which were on the agenda of the Ahmadinejad visit, are quite long term.
There is only one issue, which comes to my mind, where the two countries share common interest, but where the situation is changing fast and Armenia has limited control over the developments. That is of course the Karabakh issue.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev are expected to meet later this month for what could prove to be decisive peace talks. Iranian officials have repeatedly voiced strong opposition to the possible deployment of a Western-led peacekeeping force in the conflict zone, which is very close to Iran’s northwestern frontier.
Could this be it?