Iran and Armenia have common interests and concerns – Ambassador

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Iran and Armenia have common interests and concerns – Ambassador

YEREVAN, JULY 11, ARMENPRESS. The "Questions to the Ambassador" initiative is being implemented on the platform of the "Orbeli" analytical center operating under the Public Relations and Information Center of the Armenian Prime Minister's Office, within the framework of which interviews are organized with heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Armenia, Armenian ambassadors abroad, representatives of international organizations, etc., on key issues of Armenian foreign policy agenda, bilateral and multilateral relations.

Within the framework of the initiative, the guest of the "Orbeli" analytical center is the Ambassador of Iran to Armenia, Abbas Badakhshan Zohouri, who is completing his mission in Armenia.

- Your Excellency, the year 2022 was quite an important and effective year in terms of the development of Armenia-Iran cooperation in almost all fields. In the political sphere, there have been enough important meetings, mutual visits, top level negotiations. The Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Iran was opened in Kapan, the bilateral trade turnover records an unprecedented progress, exceeding 700 million USD. How would you assess bilateral cooperation in the past year, and what expectations and benchmarks are there for the coming years?

- We witnessed the growth and development of relations in various fields. Most importantly, on political and strategic issues, we witnessed the continuation of regular contacts at the highest levels and the strengthening of mutual trust and respect. One of the important events of last year was the opening of the Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Kapan. Bilateral cooperation in the field of infrastructures, including energy and transport infrastructures, also recorded positive developments. Last year, the trade turnover between the two countries also increased by more than forty percent and crossed the threshold of 700 million USD. The increase in trade turnover continued in the first months of this year as well. We witnessed interesting trends also in terms of human contacts and public opinion towards each other.

- Mr. Ambassador, the whole world, including our region, is facing serious political and security threats. The Armenian and Iranian peoples, as the indigenous peoples of this region that have been neighbors and friends for several thousand years, and their states are trying to face new challenges, often showing quite close positions. In your opinion, how can bilateral cooperation in the direction of facing common challenges be made more effective?

- Maintaining and strengthening the atmosphere of trust and mutual respect between the authorities and peoples of the two countries was one of the important areas in the center of attention of the embassy in recent years. I think that at present, more than ever, we realize the importance of bilateral cooperation and there is a real will to expand cooperation in both countries. It is necessary to strive to maintain this dynamic. Another important point is to draw attention to the fact that deep and serious developments are taking place at the international and regional levels, which may lead to the creation of unexpected opportunities and challenges. Based on this, I consider the continuity of contacts and consensus between the authorities and expert circles of the two countries to be very important. In particular, expert and professional communication can help foster mutual understanding, correctly predict challenges, and proper planning of grasping opportunities.

- Mr. Zohouri, it has been more than 4 months since Azerbaijan closed the Lachin Corridor, as a result of which the 120,000 Armenian population of Artsakh has appeared under siege. Azerbaijan has also placed a checkpoint in the corridor. These actions of Baku are another gross violation of the tripartite declaration of November 9, 2020 and violate the right of Artsakh Armenians to live freely and safely in their homeland. What is Tehran's position on this issue, and how can Iran support the resolution of the crisis?

- Our advice to all parties to the November 9 declaration and the subsequent agreements has always been to adhere to the letter and spirit of these agreements and commitments. The countries also have clear obligations under international law, one of which is to protect the rights and safety of the residents of the region. We note that the issue of the rights and security of the residents of the mentioned area is a complex and delicate issue.

- Armenian and Iranian expert fields often talk about the need to develop security cooperation between the two countries. According to you, what are the prospects for bilateral cooperation in this field?

- The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Armenia have common interests and common concerns in the field of national security. You are aware that among the periodic contacts between the heads of the two countries, there were regular meetings and contacts between the secretaries of the national security councils of the two countries during the past year. Institutions responsible for national security in both countries also closely cooperate with each other. This is the path that should be continued at different levels. Another direction to pursue and pay attention to in the field of national security is the regular process of serious political consultations between the ministries of foreign affairs and strategic dialogue between the two countries. In this regard, in March of this year, we witnessed the visit of Iran's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs, Mr. Bagheri, to Armenia.

- Mr. Zohouri, as we know, the North-South highway is being built in Armenia, thanks to which Armenia can become one of the key routes of the North-South international corridor. On October 20, 2022, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian announced during his visit to Armenia that an Armenia-Iran-India platform should be created for effective cooperation in the sidelines of North-South Corridor. By the way, it should be noted that tripartite political consultations were held at the Armenian MFA recently. At the same time, some expert circles are skeptical about the implementation of the North-South International Corridor project. How important is this corridor for Iran, what are the material obstacles on the way to its implementation, and what are the concrete expectations from Armenia to implement this important regional program as quickly as possible?

- Most of the trade between Iran and Armenia is carried out by the land route from Nurduz to Yerevan, which passes through the Syunik Province of Armenia. Within the framework of the "North-South" road project in Armenia, the Armenian government has serious plans to improve the infrastructure of this route and turn it into an international transit road. We also attach great importance to the full implementation of this project in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, and Iranian companies are ready to actively participate in the implementation of this project. The implementation of this project will contribute to the launch of the Persian Gulf-Black Sea transit corridor through the territory of Iran and Armenia, which has also attracted the attention of other countries. The North-South road project is a large-scale project, both economically and in terms of implementation. The implementation of a project of this scale is one of the largest economic projects in the history of Armenia. The works must be carried out very carefully in terms of financing, tendering, project implementation and monitoring of deadlines. I think that now the perspective of the implementation of the project has significantly improved.

- And in the end, since your diplomatic activity in Armenia is coming to an end, during it, what significant obstacles did you face for the development of bilateral relations, which could have been solved by the state structures of the Republic of Armenia, and which still continue to exist? And what are the most impressive achievements during your tenure in the Republic of Armenia?

- During the farewell meeting with Mr. Pashinyan, I highly appreciated the cooperation shown by him, the government of the Republic of Armenia and the state system in developing relations at different levels. I consider it necessary to thank once again for all the cooperation shown by the Armenian side during my mission. Without the will and cooperation of both parties, it would not be possible to advance the works. Of course, this does not mean that the situation could not be better or that there are no obstacles and problems. My understanding is that increasing awareness of each other's capabilities and potential, reducing bureaucratic barriers, and speeding up and facilitating cooperation and especially focusing on key issues is of primary importance and can contribute to further development of relations. The development of relations in all spheres is the joint achievement of the authorities and peoples of the two countries in recent years.


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