YEREVAN — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Yerevan on Wednesday, reaffirming his country’s desire to continue seeking closer relations with neighboring Armenia after the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Zarif also expressed Iran’s strong support for Armenia’s territorial integrity as he discussed regional security and bilateral ties with his Armenian counterpart Ara Ayvazian.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran attaches importance to the territorial integrity of all countries and strives to ensure that the religions and rights of all peoples are always protected. Our red line is the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and we have made that clear,” he told Ayvazian at the start of their talks.
“We stand ready to deepen our relations with Armenia in the political, economic, cultural and security fields,” he said.
“We have many common concerns. Our concerns include the presence of terrorists and foreign fighters,” Zarif added, seemingly alluding to the widely documented participation of Middle Eastern mercenaries in the six-week war on Azerbaijan’s side.
Zarif also mentioned those concerns during his separate meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held later in the day. Pashinyan said he looks forward to discussing with Iran’s top diplomat “developing and deepening our bilateral relations” and other “very important issues.”
An Armenian government statement on the meeting said the two men “exchanged thoughts” on the aftermath of the Karabakh war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
“The prime minister noted that many issues, included Nagorno-Karabakh’s status, remain unresolved and that Armenia is ready to continue negotiations within the framework of the co-presidency of the OSCE Minsk Group,” said the statement.
According to the statement, Zarif and Pashinyan stressed the importance of “unblocking and reactivating regional transport links.”
The ceasefire agreement calls for the opening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for cargo and other traffic. It specifically commits Yerevan to opening rail and road links between the Nakhichevan exclave and the rest of Azerbaijan that will presumably pass through Armenia’s Syunik province bordering Iran. For its part, Armenia should be able to use Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to and from Russia and Iran.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service after his talks with Ayvazian, Zarif said Iran too sees now a real chance to establish a rail link with Armenia passing through Nakhichevan.“
“That is one requirement for both Iran and Armenia as well as for the region, and we are working with both Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia,” he said.
Zarif arrived in Armenia from Moscow as part of a regional tour which he began in Baku on Monday. Meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, he congratulated Azerbaijan on its “victory” in the war and expressed Iran’s readiness to help rebuild areas around Karabakh retaken by Azerbaijani troops.