Rouhani in Yerevan: new stage of Iran-Armenia relations?

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Baku, 23 December 2016 –

Experts are analyzing the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Yerevan. The Armenian media`s coverage is full of pathos. But a deeper look at the analyses reveals some signs of prejudice. Iran and Armenia signed several documents, with the two countries expressing their interest in developing bilateral relations and implementing regional projects. For some reasons Armenian experts created anti-Azerbaijani and anti-Turkish hysteria around these developments. As if Iran gives preference to a format of cooperation with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Such a behavior of the Armenians was expected as they have always been far from objectivity. In reality, Iran and Azerbaijan now enjoy excellent relations and any confrontation between the two is out of question. Leaders of both countries are determined to develop their cooperation.

The documents signed: energy and transport as priority areas

In the ordinary way, the Iranian President`s visiting Armenia is a normal occasion. At the modern stage all countries build relations with each other in accordance with international law. But the Armenian media attempted to give a very one-sided coverage of Hassan Rouhani`s visit to Yerevan, labelling it as a move against Azerbaijan and Turkey. We would try to provide an unbiased description of the situation.

In Yerevan, the Iranian president said "the two nations enjoy historic friendship and cooperation”. (see: Президенты Армении и Ирана подвели итоги переговоров / "", 21 December 2016). He said Armenians and Iranians share common civilization and culture. (see: previous source). And it`s no coincidence that Hassan Rouhani says this. Indeed, Iran was "the road of life” for Armenian in the 1990s, which was openly admitted by Armenian officials. Yerevan even thanked Tehran for this on several occasions.

The presidents of the two countries made reciprocal visits and signed a number of documents. But only a small part of this was implemented. In Yerevan, Hassan Rouhani said: "Relations between Iran and Armenia have great potential, but we have used only part of it so far. We should make full use of our potential.” (see: previous source).

But what does the Iranian head of state mean when saying "we should make full use of our potential”? The documents signed and discussions held by the two countries demonstrate their readiness for broader cooperation. Iran and Yerevan signed agreements on cooperation in sport, tourism, trade, investment making, energy, science, banking, technologies and environment. (see: previous source).

In addition, several planned transportation and energy projects point to Iran`s and Armenia`s intention to work together at regional and global levels. It`s reasonable to reflect on possible implications of this for geo-political processes.

Obviously, Tehran is interested in building up a certain geo-political configuration with Yerevan as they seek implementation of joint projects on energy and trade routes. One of the important components here is gaining access to Russia and Europe through North-South corridor using Armenia. The Iranian president said: "We enjoy good cooperation in energy sector, which embraces increasing gas export, transportation of gas from Turkmenistan through the territory of Iran, and electricity supply.” (see: previous source).

So Iran and Armenia do not want to confine their cooperation to bilateral energy projects and seek implementation of new projects involving other countries – possibly Turkmenistan, Russia and Georgia. There are plans to pump gas from Turkmenistan to the Black Sea through Armenia and Georgia. Some Armenian experts tend to promote this as part of New Silk Road project.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials hint at Persian Gulf-Black Sea corridor. "Armenia and Iran can become part of Persian Gulf-Black Sea corridor.” (see: previous source). The two countries can build trade and economic relations using highway and railway systems. They consider this in the context of regional cooperation.

Geo-political aspect: Armenian expert`s fantasies and regional realities

Head of the Department of Iranian Studies of Yerevan State University Vardan Voskanyan told Russian Nezavisimaya Qazeta newspaper that Iran and Armenia are now synthesizing political and economic aspects of their relations. The two countries are seeking closer cooperation on North-South communications and energy corridor, which is of certain geo-political significance. Linking the Persian Gulf with the Black Sea through Armenia and Georgia is regionally important. However, Russia is indirectly involved in the project. Another issue on the agenda is building mutually beneficial economic relations with the Eurasian Economic Union. This includes plans to establish a free trade zone in the Armenian section of Armenia-Iran border. (see: Юрий Рокс. Армения свяжет Иран с ЕАЭС. Ереван и Тегеран рассматривают новые экономические проекты и реанимируют существующие / "", 21 December 2016).

Surprisingly the Armenian analyst describes these initiatives as response to Azerbaijan-Israel relations, rather than a natural demand. "Relations with Tehran have deteriorated after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s visit to Baku. Military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel is directed against Armenia on the one hand and Iran on the other,” he says. (see: previous source). This in fact is the position of official Yerevan. It is completely biased and untrue.

First, as Hassan Rouhani repeated several times in Yerevan, Iran and Azerbaijan are friendly countries. They enjoy excellent cooperation in concrete areas and strive to develop it. They even managed to have built close ties in the field of security. This is well evidenced by the discussions held and agreements achieved by the Russian, Azerbaijani and Iranian presidents in Baku. The President of Azerbaijan described this format of cooperation as remarkable, and expressed his confidence that it will yield tangible results. This format is particularly important in terms of the implementation of North-South corridor project.

In addition, Azerbaijan and Iran maintain cooperation under New Silk Road Project. Baku and Tehran conduct regular negotiations to define the status of the Caspian Sea. Finally, Azerbaijan and Iran are bound together by historic and ethnic ties, the two nations are related to each other and are inseparable. Serzh Sargsyan thanked Hassan Rouhani for good attitude towards the Armenia community in Iran and hailed the protection of the Armenian cultural legacy in the country. But the Armenian political analyst forgets that if the Armenians are just a community in Iran, Azerbaijanis (Turks) make the society itself. Despite the Armenians` treason, betrayal and ungratefulness, peoples in Iran (including Azerbaijanis) protect the Armenian culture and the Armenian community feels safe there. And this is what has differed us from the Armenians historically. So the Armenians` attempts to set Azerbaijan and Iran against each other are ridiculous.   

Second, how can Israel-Azerbaijan relations be directed against Iran or Armenia? Should we also claim that Armenia-Russia or Armenia-Iran cooperation is directed against Azerbaijan or Turkey? But we wont`s say that because Azerbaijan is pursuing a policy based on universal, democratic and multicultural values. Baku does not care about cooperation of others. Armenia maintains cooperation with the United States and European countries and even military cooperation with Russia. The only thing Azerbaijan opposes is that Armenia is allowed to continue its occupation. Official Baku even expressed readiness to consider full restoration of cooperation with Armenia if Yerevan withdraws its military from the occupied lands. This was even admitted by Levon Ter-Petrosyan. But the Armenian leadership lacks constructive, civil and modern thinking.  

As usual official Yerevan is trying to build and present its relations with other countries using anti-Azerbaijani rhetoric. But a great power like Iran does not act in others` interests.

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