Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (right) with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (left) in Tehran on September 17
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has reiterated Iran's strong
interest in expanding its "historic, deep, and friendly" relations with Armenia
during a weekend meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in
Ahmadinejad reportedly called for the quicker implementation of more Armenian-Iranian energy projects.
Such projects include the construction of two hydroelectric plants on the Arax River marking the Armenian-Iranian border and a pipeline that will ship Iranian fuel to Armenia. The two governments also plan to build a third high-voltage transmission line connecting their power grids.
Official Iranian sources quoted the Iranian president as saying they would bolster peace and stability in the region.
The Armenian government has repeatedly said that work on these facilities will start this year. However, there have been no official announcements to that effect.
Ahmadinejad spoke of "technical and financial problems" hampering the implementation of the projects. According to Mehr news agency, he said they should be overcome "as soon as possible."
"We can expand the existing relations by up to three times," Ahmadinejad told Nalbandian late on September 17, according to Mehr.
Another Iranian news agency, IRNA, quoted him as repeating his earlier remark that Tehran is placing "no limitations" on the development of bilateral ties "in all areas."
A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two men agreed on the need for a "further development of the mutually beneficial relations."
The unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was also reportedly on the agenda of Nalbandian's talks with Ahmadinejad and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi. The Armenian minister again praised the Islamic republic's "balanced" stance on the dispute.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Salehi asked Nalbandian to brief him on the latest developments in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations mediated by the United States, Russia, and France.
Ahmadinejad telephoned the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in late June ahead of their most recent meeting, hosted by Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev. The two sides dashed mediating powers' hopes when they failed to hammer out a framework peace accord at that trilateral summit.
Some analysts attributed Ahmadinejad's phone calls to Iran's alleged unease over a Karabakh settlement favored by the West and Russia.
Earlier in June, Ahmadinejad canceled a planned visit to Yerevan at the last minute. A spokesman for the Iranian president claimed that the Armenian side "did not prepare documents" that were due to be signed there.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian's office did not confirm that. It said vaguely that the visit was postponed by "mutual consent" and would take place "at a more convenient time."
No dates for the trip were announced after Nalbandian's meetings in Tehran.
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