Armenia-Iran bilateral relations have attained a new quality in 2015, as the negotiations of P5+1 and Iran over its nuclear program were a success and Russia launched military operation in Syria with further formation of Iran-Russia coalition. The remarks came from Vardan Voskanian, the head of the Iranian Studies Department, Yerevan State University, when commenting on the results of the passing year for Armenia – Iran relations to EADaily.
“The first point is relatively clear: Iran, Armenia’s immediate neighbor, is getting out of isolation, and this will result in future redistribution of the fields of political and economic influence in the region. In such situation, Armenia will get the role of Tehran’s ‘window’ to the north, to the Russian and European markets, which will sure have a positive impact on the general regional market and the political and economic stability in the region,” Voskanian said.
Why Armenia, and not Turkey or Azerbaijan? They behaved themselves bad, the Iranist said. In his words, the isolated Iran had to deal with them to various extent, but the free Iran does not need it. “Observers have repeatedly predicted that Azerbaijan yet several years ago could be used as a launching ground for anti-Russian actions. In addition, Baku regularly speaks about some territorial claims to Iran, while local Shias who are considered pro-Iranian forces and are in the focus of Tehran’s attention are being oppressed constantly – arrests, bans, force actions etc. Eventually, Azerbaijan has lost its status of a stable and trustworthy neighbor.”
As for Turkey, the picture is similar here: domestic instability, the Kurdish issue, the permanent threat to the transit oil pipelines, political ambitions of the incumbent leadership of Turkey, the role of the major destabilizer in the region (Syria) – all this makes Tehran be very cautious to its big neighbor. “This certainly coincides with the point two I have mentioned above – the Syrian crisis and the stabilizing role of the Russia-Iran axis in it. Our friendly neighbor state cooperates with our strategic partner and comes out as counterbalance to our neighbor – Turkey – that demonstrates enmity towards us. The situation is again in favor for Yerevan: Armenia has proven that it is a reliable partner in the region and a good neighbor to deal with. Even during the hardest times for Iran, Yerevan did not join the anti-Iranian sentiments in the world and remained a friend of Iran,” he said. In exchange for that Iran has been helping to reduce the negative effect of Armenia’s blockade for many years.
Besides regional issues, Vardan Voskanian recommended to have an eye on the dynamically developing bilateral relationships of Armenia and Iran. “The visit of the Iranian delegation led by Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Es'haq Jahangiri was indicative. The sides discussed a broad spectrum of issues covering nearly all fields of the bilateral relations – energy (construction of Third Power Line between Iran and Armenia), transport (North-South motor way), agriculture, culture, tourism and others. These were not just formalities or courtesy visits. Suffice it to say that one of the first projects Iran applied with immediately after a breakthrough in the negotiations with the Big Powers was the construction of the Third Power Line Iran-Armenia. In addition, the construction of Iran-Armenia railway remains on agenda and Iran is taking rather a progressive stand on the project hinting at its readiness to launch practical implementation of it,” the Iranist said.
According to him, the relations of Armenia and Iran can be described in short (literally) by the phrase “everything is good!” “Frankly speaking, everything is not just good, but perfect. During his October visit to Armenia, Jahangiri met with Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. The sides among others discussed the Armenian-Iranian relations in the context of Armenia’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union. Just yesterday, on December 21, Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade of Iran Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said Iran is at the initial stage of negotiations for the most favored nation treatment in trade with the EEU. Reportedly, the import tax for Iranian products may be cancelled in the not so far future. Now, let’s have a look at the map: it is obvious that Armenia is the only member of the union having a land border with Iran. It is obvious that the cooperation of the EEU and Iran will be established via Armenia – as a mediating country – and this status is very important for the trade and economic prospects,” the Iranist said.
In response to the question what should be expected from the relations of Armenia and Iran in 2016, Vardan Voskanian said: “There are so many current projects and they are so various that it is hard to predict something new in these relations. What should be anticipated is sure a deepening of the existing tendencies and expansion of cooperation in the above issues. Nevertheless, the sides seek to boost the bilateral culture and scientific-technical cooperation at higher educational establishments, scientific centers and others. This may weaken the soft visa requirements between Armenia and Iran or even cancel them,” the expert said for conclusion.