US ‘Understands’ Iran’s Importance For Armenia

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WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — The United States is not pressuring Armenia to curtail its relations with neighboring Iran because of the US sanctions against Tehran, according to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

In an interview with the French-Armenian magazine Nouvelles d’Armenie publicized by his press office on Saturday, Pashinyan was asked whether the sanctions are causing Armenian serious problems.

“I don’t want to make grandiose statements but our diplomats have succeeded in scoring a very important victory in this regard,” he replied. “Our American partners seem to have gotten a good grasp of the issue. They have started to understand that Iran is one thing for Washington and another for Armenia.”

“I can say that at the moment we are not subjected to any pressure [from the US,]” added Pashinyan.

Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, a close associate of Pashinyan, made similar comments when he visited Washington and spoke at the Atlantic Council think-tank in July.

“We don’t want the United States to put pressure on Armenia for joining in its Iran sanctions agenda,” Mirzoyan said. He argued that Iran serves as one of his landlocked country’s two conduits to the outside world due to closed borders with the two other Muslim neighbors: Azerbaijan and Turkey.

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US National Security Adviser John Bolton discussed the US sanctions with Pashinyan during an October 2018 trip to Armenia. Bolton said traffic through the Armenian-Iranian border will become a “significant issue” because Washington will be enforcing the sanctions “very vigorously.”

Pashinyan made clear afterwards that that his government will “deepen not only economic but also political relations” with Tehran. He paid an official visit to the Islamic Republic in February.

Pashinyan reaffirmed Yerevan’s strong interest in the implementation of Iranian-Armenian energy projects in an interview with leading Iranian media outlets cited by the Armenpress news agency on Monday. He noted with satisfaction the ongoing construction of a third transmission line that will link the Armenian and Iranian power grids.

The Armenian leader also pointed out that he has invited Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union that will be held in Yerevan next month. Iran and the Russian-led trade bloc signed a preferential trade agreement last year.

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