Even though a presidential election is envisaged in Iran on June 18, Tehran hints that whoever forms the next government, no significant changes are expected in relations with Armenia.
During a week full of visits by Iranian officials, Hayk Navasardyan spoke with Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Abbas Badakhshan Zohouri to find out what role Tehran could play in resolving the conflict between the two neighbors.
- On May 12, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces crossed the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia and do not leave. The contract servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia were kidnapped from the territory of Armenia on May 27. The official Baku presented them as terrorists who allegedly crossed the territory of Azerbaijan. How do you assess the behavior of one of your neighbors towards the other?
- We deeply regret that the peoples of our neighboring countries are suffering as a result of border tensions. I hope that the recent incidents on the borders of the two countries will be resolved peacefully as soon as possible, in accordance with the norms of international law. We pursue to settle this issue to the best of our ability through dialogue and cooperation with other parties. Neither side will benefit from the escalation of the conflict.
- This week, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a meeting with Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan “internationally recognized borders and territorial integrity are the red line in Tehran.” What does this mean?
- As it was emphasized, during the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, the stability and security of the region, the fact that the international borders are unchanged, and the establishment of peace between the two neighboring countries is definitely important for us. Unsafe and dangerous conditions will allow destructive actors to intervene. We have expressed our readiness and will do everything possible to prevent dangerous possibilities.
- Recent provocations by Azerbaijan have caused serious problems in Syunik, which borders Iran. The leader of Azerbaijan is constantly talking about the ‘Zangezur Corridor’. How would you assess the situation from the Iranian point of view? Can Tehran influence the settlement of the issue?
- During his visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke about this issue during his meetings with officials of the two countries. We try to bring the views of both sides closer, and to ensure a peaceful settlement of the issue. We expect other countries active in regional issues to be active in this regard as well.
- The issue of launching an international corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea has become more active again. Do you think this can be seen in the process of unblocking regional roads after the 44-day war, or are there other reasons?
- These two issues are different. The issue of the Persian Gulf-Black Sea corridor has been raised for several years, and several countries are involved in it. Negotiations are underway with Iran, Armenia and other countries, such as Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria. These countries are on the Black Sea side, and it is interesting that other countries on the Persian Gulf side have also shown interest in this route. This is very important because a convenient transport route between Iran and Armenia can increase the volume of Iran-Armenia trade turnover and create opportunities for Iran and Armenia to enter many markets.
- What is Armenia’s step in this case, what are the expectations from Armenia in this regard?
- This project requires political will, funding and a serious approach to its implementation. We are pleased that the Government of Armenia is emphasizing the importance of the North-South Corridor more than ever. Iran has also stated its readiness to participate in the project. We have companies that are fully capable of carrying out the difficult parts of this project. It should be noted that the Minister of Roads and Urban Development also discussed this issue during his recent visit to Armenia, and now we are exchanging relevant information.
- You have been the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Republic of Armenia for a year now. Let us talk about Armenian-Iranian relations - economic, political. What opportunities do you see for the development of bilateral relations?
- We have a rich agenda of cooperation. High-level political dialogues have started between the officials of the two countries, and we intend to seriously implement this program. We must work on holding the 17th session of the intergovernmental commission of the two countries. The growth of trade relations between the two countries is also significant. In the field of economic cooperation, the issues of extending the gas-electricity exchange agreement, and increasing the volume of gas exports to Armenia, which we must advance, and the completion of the construction of the third Armenia-Iran power transmission line are discussed. We should try to start cooperation in the direction of the most important parts of the North-South corridor in the territory of Armenia. We also have very important issues to develop cultural, scientific and interuniversity ties, as well as cooperation in the field of tourism, which should be pursued.
- There are elections in Armenia and Iran almost simultaneously, there are presidential elections in Iran on June 18, what to expect from the new government, are substantive changes in the Armenian-Iranian relations possible?
- In the structure of the Iranian political system, different centers of power have their influence in the development of macro-policy and the implementation of foreign policy. The government is the implementer of foreign policy; and of course, it participates in the policy-making process. Therefore, despite the change of presidents in different years, the general direction of our country’s foreign policy does not change dramatically.
Strengthening relations with Armenia and other neighbors as well as the efforts to maintain peace and security around the country are extremely important for any Iranian government. I hope that in the new period not only attention will be paid to the importance of relations with Armenia, but also more and new energy will be given to the development of bilateral relations.
I also hope that the formation of a new parliament, the establishment of tranquility in the domestic political life of Armenia will give more energy and dynamics to the relations between the two countries.