Armenia - Iran: Heading for a strategic partnership

Vyacheslav Mikhailov,
Especially for Iran.ru

15 january 2014

Relations between Armenia and Iran historically intertwined. It was always more than just a relationship between two neighboring peoples and states. Ethnic Armenians and Iranians ideas, views on their place in the cultural-historical and geopolitical terms have much in common.Rich and colorful history of the relationship of these people nowadays peaked convergence laid an important foundation for the development of strategic relations between the two countries.

Brief History

We live thousands of years next to each other kindred peoples common Aryan roots, similar historical fate. In the past, the present and the Armenians and Iranians clearly shows the struggle for their own identity. Modern iranovedy note that Armenians occupy a prominent place in the Iranian national idea. Ties of the states also had close character. With all this, the history of relations between Armenia and Iran (Persia) has known periods of antagonism. With particular force in the first century AD is evident in the difference between the selected faiths. But this antagonism has never acquired an irreversible form, as was the case, for example, in the Armenian-Turkish relations. In contrast, the Persians and their historical successors Iranians have always strived for good neighborliness with the Armenians.Especially on one of the most difficult stages of Armenian history, when ancient people of Asia Minor suffered genocide in the Ottoman Turkey.

Here are the main milestones of relations between Armenia and Iran in historical retrospect. Formation time of the Persian empire and the Armenian state falls on VI century BC Throughout the centuries, the ancient part of historical Armenia was under the influence of serial Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian then Persia. In the period between the Parthian rulers of Armenia and Persia established dynastic ties. And there, and there ruled Arshacides. With accession to the throne of the Persian Sassanid relations between the two countries deteriorated markedly. It was at this period of historical time loss accounts Armeniastatehood: its profile in 387 between the Byzantine Empire and Persia. Eastern part of Armenia initially remained under the nominal authority of local Arshakid dynasty, and in 428 was relegated to one of the Persian provinces. After Avarayr battle Armenians and Persians in 451, the Armenians were not restored its statehood, but achieved the recognition of freedom of religion of Christianity in Eastern Armenia.

The ensuing century brought two people new tests. Arab and Mongol invasions, the growing power of the Byzantine Empire coincided with the spread of Islam in Iran, and within historical Armenia - with the formation of several kingdoms. At the beginning of the XVI century originated in Persia new ruling dynasty - the Safavids. Her main opponent in the vast expanse of Asia Minor, the Middle East became the Ottoman Empire. Middle position between two opposing Armenian centers of power hadthe most negative consequences for the restoration of the Armenian statehood. In the course of several wars between the Persians and the Turks Armenian people suffered deprivation, displacement depth of the Persian empire. During the reign of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629 gg.) Tens of thousands of Armenians from areas of Asia Minor, the Caucasus and northern parts of Persia were evicted from their places of residence. Many of them found new homes, particularly in the area of Isfahan (capital of Safavid Persia). It was then that originates in Iran formation of a large Armenian community. It should be noted that the economic power of the Safavids of Persia was based largely on the silk trade, and Armenians held an extremely important place here (in their hands were trading companies to establish ties with Europe).

Since the end of the XVII century in the region of Turkey and Iran confrontation there is a new force. Since the times of Peter Russia enters into a series of numerous military conflicts for their place in the Caucasus, in the area between the Black and Caspian Seas. As a result, Russian-Persian wars to Russia on the Gulistan Treaty of 1813 departed Baku, Ganja, Derbent, Karabakh, Guba, Sheki, Shirvan, as well as part of the Talysh Khanate. By the end of the last war between Russia and Persia in 1828 was concluded Turkmanchay peace treaty. He secured the Russian Erivan and Nakhichevan khanates.

With the hit of Armenians under the influence of the Russian Empire ties between the two peoples have not stopped. Link connecting them became Armenian community of Iran. She enjoyed the respect and in the days of the Shah's pro-Western regime of Iran, and after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Now its numbers up to 80 thousand people. Representatives of the Armenian community in Iran sit in parliament. Special respect to the Armenians refracted through the caring attitude of the Iranian authorities to the monuments of cultural and historical presence of the people in the Islamic republic. Iranian Armenians weighty presented in the economic sphere of the country, many of them are well-known figures of art and sports. In Iran, the organization acts "Union of Industrialists - Armenians of Iran", which plays an important role in supporting small and medium-sized businesses.

Armenian-Iranian relations at the present stage

The modern period of Armenian-Iranian relations is characterized by increased mutual attraction of neighboring nations and their political leadership. Iran has one of the first countries to recognize the state independence of Armenia in December 1991.A declaration recognizing Iran does not stop there. He immediately began to build closer political and economic ties with the new neighboring state. The most important test for the nascent interstate relations has become the military phase of the Karabakh conflict. In the period 1992-1994, Iran took the most balanced position in opposition to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Although peacekeeping force Tehran spring of 1992 failed, the Iranian side has continued to be present among the main external forces interested parties in achieving a political settlement of the conflict in the long term.

Since the signing of the truce in the conflict zone (May 1994), Iran became the principal conductor ideas reach a settlement exclusively by regional states. For formal reasons, Iran could become a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, established as an international mechanism for conflict resolution. The Islamic Republic is not a member of the OSCE. But the real weight of Iranian influence on the Karabakh conflict, does not lose its importance in. The mere fact that Iran's immediate neighborhood with all three parties to the conflict (Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan) is sufficient to understand the indispensability of his role on many issues, including on the Karabakh issue.

Armenia grateful to Iran for them initially taken a course on balanced approaches around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran's contribution to maintaining regional balance goes far beyond the military confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Weighted position of the top of the Iranian government, never since 1992 will not allow Armenia to doubt friendly to his location, was given a hard time to the Islamic Republic. Public opinion in Iran mid-1990s was largely pro-Azerbaijani that for the Karabakh conflict. But Iran's political elite has found that "middle ground" that allowed her to stay up to date as equidistant side with its own view of the region and its relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan.Iran's contribution to the balance of forces and interests, which maintains the status quo in the Karabakh conflict zone in the steady state is always different parity in relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Keep parity in relations with the two conflicting neighbors - a super task is often unbearable to many regional and global powers. However, Iran has been able to achieve in this matter considerable success.

Armenia, in turn, fully supports the peaceful nuclear program of Iran categorically opposes any sanctions against the country.Moreover, according to international and Yerevan introduced unilateral sanctions play a destructive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South Caucasus, the most negative effect on the development of the Armenian-Iranian relations, especially in trade and economic sphere. Yerevan quite strongly against excessive Azerbaijani-Israeli cooperation in military-technical sphere, because believes that it has a pronounced anti-Iranian and anti-Armenian. Yerevan for the resolution of existing issues relating to Iran's nuclear program exclusively by political and diplomatic means. This is why Armenia enthusiastically met the outlined Iranian-American and Iranian-European rapprochement.

Economy is primarily

Iran is the main focus on the development of economic relations with Armenia, without losing sight of the priority of deepening political contacts, bring them to the level of bilateral trust. The economic boom in the Armenian-Iranian relations started with the mid-2000s. The main impetus was given him a series of joint energy projects. From the first years of independence, Armenia was in dire need for energy security. In addition to Russia, a helping hand to her in this matter and reached Iran.Yerevan and Tehran have begun to implement joint energy projects, the number of which in recent years has replenishedconstruction hydropower plant on the Araks River, the third high-voltage line of Iran - Armenia oil pipeline Iran - Armenia.

Relations between Armenia and Iran are based on extensive legal base. Quite active Armenian-Iranian joint intergovernmental commission. After the election of a new president in Iran, forming the country's cabinet led by Hassan Rouhani, almost one of the first visited Armenia representative Iranian delegation headed by Energy Minister Hamid Chitchiyanom. Discussed the progress in the implementation of joint energy projects, in particular, construction of a third high-voltage line of Iran - Armenia and Meghri HPP.

Trade turnover between the two countries in 2013 passed the point of $ 380 million, 90% of this amount is accounted for Iranian exports to Armenia. For 2012 this turnover was $ 317.7 million (5.6% of Armenia's foreign trade). According to the Organization for Trade Iran, Armenia is among the countries with which the Iranian side is ready to build foreign trade relations as a priority.

Political contacts at the highest levels of the Armenian-Iranian relations from the middle of "zero" years also showed strong growth. In September 2004, the republic visited Iranian President SeyyedMohammad Khatami. Of particular significance for the Armenian side the visit was after visiting Khatami memorial to victims of the Armenian Genocide.Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited three times with a visit to Armenia (March and October of 2007, December of 2011). Their Armenian colleagues keep pace with graphics intensive dialogue between the two countries at the highest level. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan were and are frequent visitors to Iran. In August 2013, to attend the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani working visit Iran visited the Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan. There is reason to believe that the visit of the Iranian President to Armenia will take place in 2014.

Azerbaijani and Russian influences

On the generally positive background some problems between Armenia and Iran is still present. They can be divided into three conditional block. The former include questions sharpness which gives Azeri factor influence on the development of the Armenian-Iranian relations. The second block is determined by the dominant position of Russia in the Armenian economy. And finally, the third block includes bilateral properties.

Iran's strict adherence to the line parity in relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan does not mean the complete elimination of problems along the way. Azerbaijani factor influence on the Armenian-Iranian relations, primarily expressed in the broader economic prospects for the development of Iran's relations with this Caspian republics. With Azerbaijan, Iran is much more advanced interest in economic cooperation. At least in view of the fact that Azerbaijan is different oil and gas potential in the development of which, along with Western companies, involved and Iranian entities. Among the concessionaires gas project "Shah Deniz" with a share of 10% of present Iranian company Naftiran Intertrade (NICO). It is known that in the previous stages, taking unilateral sanctions against Iran, while Western countries have made special clause in the text of their resolutions. The purpose of these reservations was designed for removing supplies from the oil fields in Azerbaijan "Shah Deniz" in Europe and Turkey gas from under the sanctions regime. You can also recall the message of the world's media consultations took place between the U.S. and the EU to sanctions imposed on Iranian companies did not apply to the project, "Shah Deniz". This, in particular, in January 2012, wrote Wall Street Journal. In terms of the unfolding of the "thaw" in relations between Iran and the West increased the prospects of participation in the development of the Iranian capital of Azerbaijani fields.

In the transport sector relations between Iran and Azerbaijan observed greater certainty, when compared with similar projects between Armenia and Iran, which will be discussed below. Question railway construction Qazvin - Rasht - Astara recently demonstrated a new surge of activity. Iran's interests is also responsible for the construction of the south of Baku new commercial seaport (in Alat settlement, 65 km from the capital of Azerbaijan). Given its own program to improve traffic through Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea, Tehran before new opportunities in trade with its northern neighbor. And there are additional options in entering foreign markets with the use of transport infrastructure in Azerbaijan. However, the potential of the Iranian-Azerbaijani relations remains unsolved. One of the main reasons - the unstable political climate in relations between Tehran and Baku. It is significant that in 2007 the volume of trade and economic turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran was $ 539 million, in 2012 it has undergone a twofold decline - to $ 263 million

Russian factor at different stages of the Armenian-Iranian relations since 1990 has provided them significant influence. Close relations of strategic partnership between Russia and Armenia, the state of the two countries in a military-political bloc gave Iran more confidence in such an important issue for him, as deterrence NATO closer to the northern borders of the Islamic republic. 102nd Russian military base in Armenia continues to function on a new contractual basis, fixed Moscow and Yerevan in August 2010. Scalable from one year to the military-technical cooperation between Russia and Armenia is also of great interest for Iran. Creating in the neighboring country of certified centers and joint ventures for repair and maintenance of weapons and military equipment produced in Russia can play a role in the development of military-technical cooperation between Russia and Iran.

Under the economic point of view on the communication triangle "Iran - Armenia - Russia" in the past acted out certain problems. Among them was a question of providing alternative Armenia source of natural gas. In the context of the ongoing blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and the closeness of the onshore area of the Armenian-Turkish border is a alternative to the Russian "blue fuel" could only be Iranian gas. However, starting in March 2007, the project supplies gas to Armenia from Iran has not yet gone beyond the barter exchange schemes: the rate of 1 cubic meters of Iranian natural gas instead of 3kW / h of electricity Armenian. All Iranian gas to link the two countries piped onto the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant, which produces electricity for the needs of its southern neighbor. In 2012, Armenia received 488.3 million cubic meters. meters of Iranian gas.

It should be noted that the decisive role in the truncation of the Armenian-Iranian cooperation on gas played a dominant position of the Russian "Gazprom" on the Armenian market. Russia is very cool reception to the possibility of some competition itself from the Iranian partners. After adjusting the "Gazprom" of its share in the possession of the Armenian gas transmission system to 100% (it happened on the recent visit of Russian President to the Republic December 2, 2013) the prospects of expanding cooperation between Armenia and Iran on gas even more narrowed. But even in these straitened within Yerevan and Tehran are planning opportunities for new and expanding old projects. The Iranian side expressed its willingness to supply more gas to Armenia in exchange for a corresponding increase in the supply of electricity from the Armenian power plants.

Rail: more questions than answers

Worth considering some problems in the Armenian-Iranian relations, for which a joint effort between Tehran and Yerevan. It is worth paying attention to, which is still only a draft of the Iran - Armenia. Its construction requires large investments, to ensure that their forces in Armenia is extremely difficult. There are hopes to attract credit resources of China and the Asian Development Bank. Russia has taken a low profile in relation to this project, explaining his approach more doubts payback an impressive highway construction costs and low volumes of traffic intended for it. Iran guarantees only for its construction of the road - 60-kilometer stretch of the border with Armenia.

Growth prospects

Apparently, the relations between Armenia and Iran have a bright future. Importantly, rational use of available growth potential political relations and economic cooperation, to guide them in a mutually beneficial direction. One of these areas, the demand for which will only grow with the Iranian-American and Iranian-Western rapprochement may be the involvement of the Armenian lobby in the United States, Europe and other countries to promote joint projects in Armenia and Iran. For instance, now the Armenian lobby on Capitol hill 95% of its energy and resources given to the issue of recognition of the Armenian Genocide.The remaining 5% of it is committed to the promotion of Washington's corridors of power of the Armenian position on the Karabakh conflict. Objective view indicates that the Armenian lobby in the United States is not involved in the practice of settling the Armenian-Iranian partnership. Meanwhile, their role as a bridge between Iran and the Armenian diaspora group of U.S. congressmen supporting the warmest relations with Armenia, looks very popular in the current situation. Could form an interesting link and confidential exchange of views.

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Armenian-Iranian relations have stood the test of time, showed their resilience and commitment to the development of the past 20 years. On the way partnership between Armenia and Iran have many bright pages, but occasionally rose objective difficulties.Among the most difficult in this regard began during the war in the conflict zone. Armenia and Iran quite successfully overcome difficult stages of the formation of stable inter-state relations. Ahead of a lot of work to enhance political trust and creating a qualitatively new economic base in the bilateral relations. And there is no doubt that the work in these areas will be carried out by the parties sincerely and with full dedication, as the expansion and deepening of relations in the interests of both states.

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