Our Analytics 24 january — 08:22

Iran rejects Armenia in favour of Azerbaijan (On the eve of Rouhani's visit)

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BY RAMIZ MAMMADOV, POLITICS SECTION

In the spring of this year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to visit Azerbaijan. The expert of the Primakov Centre for Post-Soviet Studies of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian political scientist Farhad Ibrahimov told Azeri Daily that it is noteworthy that in the spring it is planned to launch an extremely important economic project for the region: the international transport corridor 'North South.'

Meanwhile, Armenia continues unsuccessful attempts to expand economic ties with Iran. Moreover, Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan in Zurich held a working lunch with representatives of the Armenia-Switzerland Chamber of Commerce and Swiss businessmen, urging them to invest in Armenia, as this country borders Iran, which promises great preferences. But first things first.

Iran Daily recently wrote about the plans of the Armenian leadership to expand economic ties with Iran. The article notes that Prime Minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan sees great potential for ensuring a sharp increase in trade turnover, exports and imports with Iran. Whether these plans are justified is a big question. The same Karen Karapetyan, speaking at a meeting in the Armenian parliament, said that trade with Iran over the past 10 months, with the exception of the energy sector, reached 62.5 million dollars.

At the same time, he admitted that 'taking into account the Iranian market, its capabilities and population,' this is really a small figure.

While in Switzerland, the Armenian prime minister urged Swiss businessmen to remember the markets of the EAEU and Iran. 'My message to you today is simple and sincere: let's do business in Armenia, come and invest in Armenia. Our country is a worthy place for investment and business.'

'We are neighbours of Iran, whose population is about 80 million and with which Armenia has quite friendly relations,' Karen Karapetyan said.

Meanwhile, according to Farhad Ibrahimov, the visit of the Iranian president may be connected with the launch of an extremely important for the region economic project 'North-South': 'The speedy implementation of this project is extremely necessary for the two countries. Given the fact that the railway network in Iran is not very developed, Baku allocated $500 million to ensure that the launch of this international transport corridor was not postponed. I want to note that Azerbaijan and Iran occupy a special place in this project, the leaders of the two states understand this well and therefore hold regular meetings so that the project can be implemented as soon as possible. I think that this issue will be on the agenda.'

According to the expert, of course, the Karabakh conflict, in which Iran stands on the side of Azerbaijan, will not be bypassed by the parties. This is well known in Yerevan, despite attempts at active economic cooperation with Iran.

'In Armenia they are trying to do everything possible to lure Iran to their side, actively using the Armenian Diaspora. In Iran, however, it does not have much weight, and even in Tehran, though neatly, but unequivocally adhere to the position in favour of Baku. Moreover, we can turn to figures that clearly show with whom Iran is developing closer economic cooperation. If you look at the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran, then only in 2017 it grew by 70% compared to 2016. This means that there are all prerequisites for the development of relations along the economic line, taking into account that after the launch of the North-South corridor the commodity turnover may double at once,' Farhad Ibrahimov stressed.

As for Armenia, the trade turnover, according to data for 2017, does not reach $300 million. 'In Armenia they have repeatedly stated their intention to bring the trade turnover with the Islamic Republic of Iran to 1 billion dollars, but, given the difficult economic situation in the country, it is unlikely in the near future. Tehran, in essence, is trying to pursue an accurate policy with the countries of the South Caucasus. It does not need superfluous quarrels with other neighbours, especially against the background of what is happening in the region. Iran has repeatedly called on Armenia to liberate the occupied lands of Azerbaijan in Karabakh, tried even to mediate in the settlement of this conflict. For Yerevan, Iran is the only country through which it can get out of the situation in which it has driven itself, as relations with Georgia are also not good,' Farhad Ibrahimov said.

The expert emphasises that Iran is an independent state that proceeds from its own national interests. 'The relations between Baku and Tehran, frequent meetings at the level of heads of state, ministers, expansion of economic ties, participation in common projects directly indicate a great interest in close relations with Azerbaijan,' the source said.

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