Top Iranian Defense Official Visits Armenia


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozafari Nia discussed military ties between Iran and Armenia during a visit to the capital on Tuesday.

Mozafari Nia met with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and his first deputy Davit Tonoyan.

A short statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said they spoke about “issues related to Armenian-Iranian cooperation in the area of defense.” It did not elaborate.

A ministry source linked the talks with Ohanian’s official visit to Tehran last July. The source said that they focused on the implementation of Armenian-Iranian agreements reached during that trip.

While in Tehran, Ohanian met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and other top Iranian officials. Official Armenian and Iranian sources said that both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening Armenian-Iran ties and stressed their importance for peace in the region.

“Cordial bonds between Iran and Armenia will help maintain peace and stability in the region,” Ohanian said at the time. Few other details of his talks were reported.

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Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Ara Nazarian reportedly said late last month that bilateral relations have now reached “the highest level.” He also reaffirmed Yerevan’s positive assessment of Iran’s role in regional security.

“Over the past years, Iran has pursued a conscious and coherent policy in the region,” the IRNA news agency quoted Nazarian as saying at a ceremony organized by the Iranian Embassy in Armenia. The event marked Iran’s National Army Day.

Defense and security has arguably been the least advanced component of Armenia’s warm rapport with Iran, which has centered on economic cooperation and joint energy projects in particular. Still, military cooperation between the two neighboring states has prompted serious concern from the United States on at least one occasion.

According to one of the classified US diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks last December, Washington accused Armenia of re-exporting weapons to Iran and threatened sanctions against Yerevan in late 2008. In a secret December 2008 letter, then Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte pressed President Serge Sargisian to “ensure such transfers do not occur in the future.”

Sargisian has pursued close ties with Iran throughout his three-year presidency. Visiting Tehran in late March, he described the Armenian-Iranian relationship as “truly exemplary” and called for its expansion.

Relations with the Islamic Republic is a rare matter of national consensus in Armenia, reflecting its unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno- Karabagh and strained relations with another Muslim neighbor, Turkey. With the Armenian-Azerbaijani and Armenian- Turkish borders closed for almost two decades, Iran is one of the landlocked country’s two conduits to the outside world.

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