Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan

Iran Repeats Warnings to Armenian Leadership

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Outside powers cannot bring peace and stability to the South Caucasus, Iran’s leaders have told Armenia’s visiting Defense Minister Suren Papikyan in what appears to be a fresh warning to Yerevan.

It comes amid a further deterioration of Armenia’s relations with Russia, its longtime ally, and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s apparent efforts to reorient his country towards the West.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stressed the importance of “the non-interference of outsiders in regional affairs” when he met with Papikyan, a key member of Pashinyan’s political team, late on Thursday, March 7.

“Allowing outsiders to interfere will not bring security; security and peace will be guaranteed only by the cooperation of the countries of the region themselves,” Raisi was quoted by his office as saying.

Iran’s Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani was similarly reported to tell Papikyan on Wednesday that “seeking security outside the region” could only “bring about more challenges to regional peace and stability”.

Tehran has repeatedly conveyed the same message to Yerevan in the past several months. Pashinyan’s administration has been seeking closer security ties with the United States and Europe amid its unprecedented tensions with Russia. It also prefers Western mediation of peace talks with Azerbaijan.

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Pashinyan seemed to acknowledge last month that his government’s declared efforts to “diversify” Armenia’s foreign and security policy are prompting concern from not only Moscow but also Tehran.

Armenian opposition groups say Iran’s stance is another reason why Yerevan should exercise caution in its dealings with the West. They argue that unlike Western powers, Iran could intervene militarily to prevent Azerbaijan from opening an extraterritorial corridor to its Nakhichevan exclave through Syunik, the only Armenian region bordering the Islamic Republic.

While signaling concerns about the pro-Western tilt in Armenian foreign policy, Raisi praised the current state of Armenian-Iranian relations. He said he hopes Papikyan’s talks with Ashtiani will result in a major boost to regional security.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that the ministers reached “a number of understandings on issues of mutual interest.” It did not elaborate.

 

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