Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, at right, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan meet in Dushanbe, September 17, 2021

Armenian, Iranian Leaders Discuss Closer Ties Amid Transport Hurdles

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DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (RFE/RL) — Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discussed on Friday, September 17 ways of deepening bilateral commercial ties complicated by an Azerbaijani checkpoint set up on the main highway connecting the two neighboring states.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, at right, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan meet in Dushanbe, September 17, 2021

Raisi and Pashinyan met on the sidelines of a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Tajikistan on September 17 as Azerbaijani officers stopped and demanded hefty payments from Iranian trucks transporting goods to and from Armenia for the sixth consecutive day.

More than a hundred such trucks were reportedly stranded on Thursday, September 16, at a 21-kilometer section of the highway which the Armenian government controversially ceded to Azerbaijan following last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani authorities set up the checkpoint there on Sunday after again accusing Iranian trucks of illegally shipping cargos to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian government press office said Pashinyan and Raisi discussed, among other things, ways of “organizing unfettered cargo ships between the two countries” as well as “processes taking place in the region.” It gave no details.

The official Iranian readout of the talks made no mention of the new obstacle to Armenian-Iranian trade and wider transport links. It stressed Raisi “stressed the need to increase the current level of economic relations between Iran and Armenia.”

In that regard, the recently elected Iranian president was reported to say that an Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation should become “more active.” He proposed that Yerevan and Tehran set up joint “specialized working groups” that would deal with “obstacles” to the implementation of their joint economic projects.

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According to the statement posted on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website, Pashinyan pledged to “instruct relevant ministers” to remove those obstacles.

It was Pashinyan’s second meeting with Raisi in less than two months. The two men held their first face-to-face talks in early August when the Armenian premier visited Tehran to attend Raisi’s swearing-in ceremony held in the Iranian parliament.

During those talks Pashinyan reaffirmed his brief readiness to have Iranian companies participate in its plans to refurbish Armenian highways leading to the Islamic Republic. The two governments set up in May a working group tasked with looking into practical aspects of such participation.

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