Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Tehran, November 1, 2022

Armenia Offers Condolences to Iran, as Reports Indicate Raisi Had Canceled Planned Visit to Armenia

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia’s political leadership and opposition figures expressed on Monday, May 20, condolences over the deaths of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash.

The deaths were announced early in the morning after Iranian authorities found the wreckage of the helicopter that carried Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian and six other passengers and crew, in the mountainous terrain near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan.

In a message to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he is “shocked” by the deadly crash.

“On behalf of the government and the people of the Republic of Armenia, I convey to you my sincere condolences and words of consolation on the tragic death of my dear friend and colleague President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and their accompanying persons,” Pashinyan said. “I express my solidarity with the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, wishing strength and steadfastness at this difficult time.”

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan reacted to the “devastating news from Iran” on X the social media platform. He offered his “deepest condolences” to the government and “friendly people” of Iran.

Underlining the cordial relations between the two neighboring states, Armenian opposition leaders issued similar statements.

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“This is not only Iran’s pain, this is a tragedy in the home of a good neighbor, and threats caused by this situation face not only Iran,” Tigran Abrahamyan, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Pativ Unem bloc, wrote on Facebook.

“At this difficult moment, all our thoughts and prayers are with the friendly state and brotherly people of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” read a statement released by an anti-government protest movement led by Armenian Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan.

Galstanyan had expressed hope that Raisi and the other Iranian officials will survive the crash when their whereabouts are still unknown late on Sunday.

“Iran is a friendly country for us and stability in our region, to which Iran is one of the maintainers, it is very important at this juncture,” he said.

Planned Trip to Armenia

The Armenian government on the same day neither confirmed nor denied reports that Raisi had canceled at the last minute a visit to Armenia scheduled for Sunday, the day that he died in a helicopter crash.

“Information is officially given about confirmed visits of high-ranking officials to Armenia,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ani Badalyan said in a short statement to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. She did not comment further.

Citing an unnamed “source,” Russia’s leading state news agency, TASS, reported that Raisi had been due to attend a ceremony to launch a road project in Armenia. “The visit was postponed at the last moment,” it said.

Raisi traveled on Sunday to the Azerbaijani-Iranian border where he inaugurated with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev a dam on the Arax river separating the two countries. He was returning from that ceremony when a helicopter carrying him, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials crashed in a mountainous forest in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev mere hours before Raisi’s death, in Azerbaijan

Alphanews.am quoted a spokeswoman for the Armenian Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures as saying that a joint Armenian-Iranian “event” was due to take place last week on a road leading from the Iranian border to Kajaran, a town in Armenia’s Syunik province. She did not say why it was cancelled.

Last October, the Armenian government awarded a $215 million contract to a consortium of two Iranian companies to upgrade the 32-kilometer road over the next three years. The contract was signed in Yerevan in the presence of Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrzad Bazrpash. The latter thus underlined its geopolitical significance for Tehran.

Azerbaijan’s September 2023 takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh raised more fears in Yerevan that Baku will also attack Armenia to open an extraterritorial land corridor to the Nakhichevan exclave through Syunik. Iran has repeatedly warned against attempts to strip it of the common border and transport links with Armenia. Raisi reportedly told a visiting Azerbaijani official in October that the corridor sought by Baku is “resolutely opposed” by his country.

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