There is great potential in all spheres of Armenia-Iran cooperation. Nikol Pashinyan’s Interview with IRNA Iranian News Agency
1. This year marks the 28th anniversary of establishment of Iran-Armenia diplomatic relations. How do you assess the current level of relationship between the two friendly countries?
- Definitely positive. Moreover, the centuries-old friendship between our peoples is a good example of intercultural dialogue and coexistence between different religions and civilizations, which is also an important factor promoting peace and stability in the region. Our centuries-old strong ties are based on mutual understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation.
The strong ties of friendship and partnership with Iran are part of our foreign policy, and we are committed to further developing our good-neighborly relations.
At the same time, it should be noted that there is still huge untapped potential, especially as regards our trade and economic exchanges. I am convinced that contacts and dialogue at different levels will help outline the steps to take ahead in order to tap the existing opportunities.
2. What is the most important issue on the agenda of your upcoming visit to Tehran? Will there be any memorandum signed between the two countries during the visit?
The Armenian-Iranian relations boast a comprehensive and hectic agenda, and the purpose of my visit is to promote it. The upcoming visit can be considered as another round of regular dialogue between our two countries during which we will discuss the whole range of issues of mutual interest.
Concerning the keynote agenda items, I should state that a new component has emerged in our relations. I mean the EAEU-Iran free trade agreement, which will open up new prospects for trade and investment between participating countries.
As you may know, it has reached the stage of ratification. I hope that the legal formalities will be completed in the near future, and the practical results will not keep us waiting for a long time.
As regards the documents to be signed, the parties are currently working on a number of documents in order to prepare them for signing during my visit.
At the same time I would like to mention that the Armenian-Iranian multi-dimensional relations are governed by more than 180 instruments already signed. That is, we boast a solid legal framework as a platform for developing bilateral cooperation.
3. What are the main spheres where even stronger and more comprehensive ties (economic, cultural, industrial, political, etc) can be built between Armenia and Iran?
I see great potential in all spheres of cooperation that should be used with maximum efficiency. In particular, we need to take steps to develop trade and economic interaction, increase the volume of commodity turnover, and in general, tap the opportunities available in that sphere.
Indeed, the energy sector, too, has a great potential for development. In this area we have serious joint projects, such as gas / electricity exchange, construction of the third high-voltage power transmission line Armenia-Iran.
Negotiations are underway on the Meghri HPP project, which has recently been ratified by the Iranian Majlis. A number of other projects are also being discussed.
As I already mentioned, the EAEU-Iran Free Trade Agreement creates new opportunities for trade and economic cooperation. In the coming months, serious preparations are needed.
As an important area, I would like to highlight the cooperation in the cultural sphere. Relevant ministries of both countries are focusing on issues such as publishing, film production, restoration and preservation of historical and cultural monuments, museum and library work.
We are also cooperating in the framework UNESCO. As you may know, due to Iran’s efforts, the St. Thaddeus and St. Stephen monastic complexes have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Armenia has prepared a complete package to submit the Yerevan Blue Mosque for the UNESCO World Heritage List. Joint work is underway with the Iranian side, and it will be properly presented after some adjustments.
Another key cultural event was the Iranian National Museum-hosted exhibition, entitled “Armenia and Iran: Land Memory,” where unique exhibits from the History Museum of Armenia were exhibited.
You know that the Golden Apricot International Film Festival is held in Armenia, and I am pleased to note that films by Iranian filmmakers Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhad and others are represented on a regular basis. By the way, the latter chaired the refereeing group of the 15th Golden Apricot Festival and his film “Divorce Naderi and Simin”was recognized as the winner in the International Feature Film nomination.
The aforementioned and similar programs are a good opportunity for Armenian and Iranian peoples to get acquainted and interact with each other’s cultures.
4. Iran is exporting machinery, engineering services and other industrial products to some countries in the region. Similarly, there are several machine-building joint projects with some countries in the region. Do you think Iran and Armenia can cooperate in mechanical engineering or other industries?
I must state that the Government of Armenia appreciates the implementation of foreign investment projects, including the Iranian investment programs. Armenia has the necessary technical, economic and professional potential for cooperation in these areas.
Recently, in December, 2018, an Armenian-Iranian joint venture for the production of gas cylinders on plastic basis was opened in Vanadzor, Armenia. The founders of the plant assure that the production will start in the near future.
Iranian investors can discuss their future plans with their Armenian counterparts and relevant organizations, and Armenia’s state agencies stand ready to provide assistance, if necessary.
5. How do you assess the future of bilateral cooperation in tourism?
You know, each country is represented by its history, culture, traditions. Obviously, tourism helps our peoples to get acquainted with each other’s history, culture, traditions, spiritual and religious values, scientific and technological achievements. Tourism development is one of our country’s priorities, and we are making great efforts to make our country attractive to tourists.
Following the visa abolition arrangement in 2016, the number of Iranian tourists visiting Armenia has considerably increased, especially in the days of the Iranian New Year - Novruz. Special events are being held in these days for ensuring the security of Iranian tourists; 911 services are available in Persian. I think that tourism is a promising field, and the indicators tend to grow in that area.
6. A large number of Armenians live in different cities in Iran and enjoy equal rights as citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran. How do you assess the attitude of the Government of the Islamic Republic towards the Armenian community?
You know, a strong and vibrant Diaspora is one of the pillars of Armenia’s development. Armenian communities living in different parts of the world and becoming an indivisible part of country’s life are a kind of bridge for the strengthening of bilateral relations.
The centuries-old Iranian-Armenian community is not an exception in this regard. It has made a practical contribution in terms of developing Iran’s social, economic and cultural wealth. It has been a serious factor in promoting our bilateral relations from the very beginning of restoration of Armenia’s independence.
We highly appreciate the warm and caring attitude of the Iranian authorities towards the Iranian-Armenian community. I want to emphasize the Iranian authorities’ caring attitude towards Armenian cultural values.
7. What is the Armenian government’s position on US sanctions against Iran?
Iran is one of Armenia’s important partners. We, of course, are following all the developments around Iran.
As you may know, Armenia was among the first countries to welcome the adoption of Iran’s nuclear program in 2015, because Armenia proceeded from the vision of the opportunities that might open up in terms of regional stabilization and regional cooperation.
Naturally, we are worried about the recent developments around Iran. Under these conditions, Armenia continues to work closely with the Iranian side and other parties involved in this process based on open dialogue.
We clearly represent all issues of concern and our stance on them. We are convinced that Armenia’s constructive approach can be a positive factor in finding solutions to emerging issues.