‘Iran-Armenia economic relations have not kept pace with political proximity’

Ambassador: Forcing Iranian trucks to pay tolls is against tripartite agreement

October 26, 2021 - 10:49

TEHRAN- "According to the tripartite talks between Russia, Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the ceasefire agreement, the transit road was supposed to have its former status in order to complete the new road," the Iranian ambassador in Armenia, Abbas Badakhshan Zohuri, has said in an interview with Tasnim published on Monday.

Azerbaijan’s relations with Iran, its large neighbor to the south, have been in flux since the end of last year’s war with Armenia. 

The most recent rocky period started when Azerbaijan began charging Iranian trucks toll fees on a road heading for southern Armenia through slices of Azerbaijan’s territory, Eurasianet reported.

At first, Iran remained silent even after Azerbaijani police and customs confirmed the practice. Armenian media reported that some of the trucks targeted had been “transporting cement to Yerevan and Stepanakert”, the de facto capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but had been controlled by Armenian forces since the first war between the two sides in the 1990s.

North-South transit road

Ambassador Badakhshan Zohuri also spoke about Iran-Armenia relations, as well as developments in the Caucasus and the South-North transit road.

The diplomat said the relations between Iran and Armenia have been at the highest level since the country’s independence in 1991 and despite ups and downs in different governments relations have been proceeding quite well.

Badakhshan Zohouri says it is unfortunate that the Iranian trucks using the Goris-Kapan road have been required to pay toll.

"We have a long history of several thousand years with Armenia, and due to the presence of Armenian compatriots, these relations are more cohesive," Ambassador Badakhshan Zohuri remarked.

However, in comparison with the good political relations between the two countries, the two sides have not had the desired economic relationship as they should, the ambassador remarked. 

The ambassador also commented on the relations between the two neighboring countries since Nikol Pashinyan took the power in Armenia in 2018. 

"Three years ago, when the Pashinyan revolution took place, new views were raised and the behavior of the new administration is mainly aimed at the development of Armenia; but it faced war and development planning was hampered. This development process has continued with the re-election of Pashinyan in the elections."

On remarks by certain politicians and media outlets that Pashinyan is pro-Western and his government may cause problems in relations with Iran, the ambassador said, "In this regard, it should be seen to what extent this country's dependence in terms of infrastructure allows Pashinyan to become pro-Western. They are more or less paying attention to their independence at the moment, but it does not necessarily mean going out of Russian support, and much of Armenia's infrastructure is under Russian control."

It is not possible to say that the Yerevan government is inclined to the West, the Iranian diplomat highlighted. However, he said, Armenians’ desire to get close to Europe and the United States will continue. "Between the Armenians and the Armenian diaspora, which has a larger population than the population inside Armenia, the country's connection with the West is growing," the ambassador commented.

Armenia-Iran relations developed during Pashinyan rule 

The ambassador stated that the relations between Armenia and Iran have been developing in all fields during the Pashinyan tenure.

"In the joint commission with Armenia, many issues have been considered that are not comparable to the past, including energy, electricity transfer from Armenia to Iran, transit of goods as well as connection to Eurasia through Armenia, which has provided the grounds for the growth of relations with Armenia."

Exhibition of Iranian products in Armenia

Badakhshan Zohori pointed to the low volume of trade exchanges between the two countries despite all incentives, saying Iran's share of trade with Armenia has been very small in recent years which the Iranian side should pay due attention to it. 

However, the ambassador said, fortunately good progress was being made, and holding Iranian exhibitions in Armenia is in line with this purpose.

Iran follows connection of Chabahar to Georgia and Black Sea

On the South-North transit road, the diplomat stressed: "We have the Indian Ocean route to Chabahar and the Persian Gulf, and then the rail route to Julfa-Armenia-Georgia and the Black Sea, which is a safe and very suitable route for trade exchange, and countries along this route can make good use of its advantages."

Construction of alternative transit road is being pursued rapidly

The ambassador added that part of the transportation route was related to the transportation road known as Sisian, which was 60 km in Syunik province in south Armenia. 

"With the measures being taken, this road creates a shortcut that shortens the previous road, and the Armenian administration is seriously seeking to revive it, which Iran will most likely participate in its construction. Given that Iran's capabilities in the field of road construction, and tunnel and bridge construction have not been noticed by many surrounding countries, talks are ongoing in this regard for Iran's participation."

Regarding the problems in the South-North transit road, Badakhshan Zohori highlighted that part of this transport road, 21 km, is located in the Goris-Kapan region, the two parts of which belonged to the Republic of Azerbaijan according to the former Soviet maps, but according to the Russia, Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan tripartite talks in the ceasefire agreement, this road was supposed to have its previous status to complete the new road, but unfortunately some time ago the road was closed for two days and after the road was opened tolls are imposed on Iranian trucks.

Iran’s top diplomat in Yerevan added: "This road has been used for the past three decades and Iranian trucks pay tolls upon arrival in Armenia and are not expected to pay tolls again 100 kilometers ahead. We expected them to stop imposing tolls for completing the road. Now that it is cold season and the road is mountainous, the alternative "Tatev" road is being built and widened, but it has not been completed yet, although the Armenian side is rapidly looking to build a transit road.

Referring to the Iranian embassy's efforts to complete the road faster, the ambassador said: "The embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken many measures since the beginning of the issue, and via correspondence, we asked the Armenian side to have more serious planning and pursue the construction of an alternative road. In this regard, some time ago, a delegation from the Ministry of Transport of Iran came to Armenia and examined this road.”

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