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October 20, 2005

ACNIS Examines Armenian-Iranian Relations

Yerevan—Serious worldwide political debates recently have taken place on Iran-international community relations and the nuclear factor in those ties. This also is of immediate concern for Armenia and its external policy, since Iran is among the countries that rank top on Armenia’s foreign agenda. And against this background, the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a policy roundtable entitled “The Armenian-Iranian Relationship in New Times: The Perspective of Security.” The meeting brought together social and political observers, experts, and media representatives.


ACNIS director of research Stiopa Safarian greeted the audience with opening remarks. “Iran’s significance for Armenia has been undisputed throughout ancient and modern history. How do we assess those events that are unfolding in and around Iran in recent periods? How can we perceive the course and the future of Armenian-Iranian relations? And regardless of the answers one thing is clear: Within the framework of regional transformation and readapting the policies of our neighbors to it, it is indispensable to come up with a strategy for expanding these ties,” Safarian said.

During his policy intervention on “Iran-Armenia Correlations within the Context of New Global Trends,” ACNIS analyst Alen Ghevondian explored the distinctiveness of this relationship, mentioning that when looked at objectively the current degree of joint political relations is less than that of commercial and economic ties between the two countries, and the reason for this is Iran’s resentment and even in some cases intolerance toward Armenia’s aspirations to develop geopolitical bearings that are not pleasing for the southern neighbor of Armenia. “In fact, Iran conditions the strengthening of bilateral trade and economic ties on the effectiveness of the political dialogue and the level of the political relationship,” Ghevondian noted. In regard to the latter, it is also worth mentioning that very often Iran reminds that an encroachment upon the balance of political and economic relations will harm the growth in ties between both countries. And factoring in the present geopolitical ambiance forming around Iran, Ghevondian also underscored the need to engage in bilateral talks that are realistic.

In her address on “The Armenian-Iranian Relationship and Developments,” analyst Emma Begijanian from the “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” daily recalled that at the beginning of 1992 the Islamic Republic of Iran became one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia . “And diplomatic ties were established on February 8 of the same year, when Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi Hovannisian paid the first formal visit to Tehran,” Begijanian noted. During that trip, among a wide range of matters, an agreement was also reached on the construction of a temporary bridge over the Arax River, which according to the speaker became a pathway of life for Armenia during the most difficult years of the blockade. The intervention also emphasized that “the level of Iran-Armenia economic collaboration does not correspond to its potential at all. As a result, according to official data, in 2003 the trade turnover between the two countries was 92.5 million US dollars, in which Armenia had exported around 22.5 million and imported 70 million dollars worth of goods.”

During his talk, lecturer Vardan Voskanian from the Iranian Studies Chair of Yerevan State University analyzed Atrpatakan as an artificial geopolitical apple of discord. In his words, “being composed of the Eastern, Western, and the Ardabil states, Atrpatakan is the place of residence for people who possess Iranian cultural heritage.” Voskanian also pointed to the fact that among Azerbaijani political circles the concept of Iranian Azerbaijan and the notion of “divided people, divided country” that derives from it constitute the oft-repeated and baseless approach that time and again enters the political agenda in order to resolve specific political issues, “even though it is crystal clear that those regions have been a part of historic Iranian Atrpatakan,” Voskanian concluded.

The formal interventions were followed by contributions by Aram Mailian of the Political Discussion Club; Vahagn Khachatrian from the Concord Center for Legal and Political Studies; former minister of state Hrach Hakobian; Artiom Aznavurian from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian of the National Citizens’ Initiative; deputy chairman Edward Antinian of the Liberal Progressive Party; and several others.

Founded in 1994 by  Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2005, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

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