Iran and Armenia Seeking New Opportunities in Post-JCPOA Era
(Armenian Ambassador speaks to Iranian media in Tehran. Source: Foad Ashtari/Tasnim)
"Armenian officials have always endorsed Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy" said Artashes Tumanyan, Yerevan's envoy to Tehran on Sunday. Speaking to Iranian media during a presser held in the modest Armenian embassy in downtown Tehran, Tumanyan highlighted the congenial relations between the two neighbors.
"Tehran-Yerevan have enjoyed a high level of political collaboration" he said in response to Iranian Diplomacy correspondent Hamed Shafie's question. "Yerevan officials have always supported Iran at the international stage, be it in the years of sanctions or afterwards."
The Caucasian republic of three million is the only member of the Eurasian Economic Union that shares borders with Iran. Meanwhile, it enjoys extensive trade ties with European countries. The trade volume between Iran and Armenia in 2015 reached 300 million dollars, of which two-third was Iran's share of export to its northwestern neighbor. The North-South Transport Corridor, energy routes transferring Iranian gas via Armenia to Europe, and agribusiness, are other field with high potential for cooperation. Indeed, Tumanyan's press conference was held on the occasion of the upcoming trade fair for Armenian companies in Tehran, the first of its kind, slated for October 5th-8th in Tehran.
Aside from business talks, Iran's diplomatic capacity is also of utmost importance for Armenia which has been engaged in a decades-long conflict with its neighbor the Republic of Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The trilateral meeting of Iran-Turkey-Azerbaijan in Iran in mid-April 2016 took place only ten days after clashes between Baku and Yerevan which left tens of casualties on each side. Iran tried to leverage its relations with Baku and Ankara to find a political solution to the bitter conflict between its two Caucasian neighbors during the meeting. Ambassador Tumanyan acknowledges Tehran's weight, stressing Iran's "decisive role" in the Karabakh conflict.
Could the direction of benefits take the other way around and Iran take advantage of Armenia's political leverage? The Armenian lobby is powerful in some European countries, particularly France, and Yerevan enjoys close ties with Washington. Asked if Armenian officials are willing to relay to their European friends Tehran's readiness for renewed trade ties and investment, the ambassador, a former deputy in the Foreign Ministry, gives a diplomatic response. Tumanyan states that Yerevan has been supportive of Iran's stance in the past 24 years, including the period of negotiations between Iran and P5+1. This has been despite differences between the two countries he adds, though Yerevan has adapted itself to the situation, viewing Iran as what he calls a "major political partner". Nonetheless, Mr. Ambassador does not suppress his concern that Iran my turn towards other partners in the post-nuclear deal era, and calls for reinforcement of political ties.
* A longer version of this piece was originally published in Iranian Diplomacy Persian.