Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed his country’s readiness to supply more natural gas to neighboring Armenia and deepen broader Armenian-Iranian relations when he visited Yerevan on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reassured him that Armenia remains committed to closer ties with Iran despite U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
“Our position is that our relations with Iran must be beyond geopolitical influences as much as possible because we are neighbors and have many common interests and we need to cooperate for many more centuries and millennia,” Pashinian said during his talks with Rouhani.
Rouhani arrived in the Armenian capital the previous night to attend a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a Russian-led trade bloc comprising five ex-Soviet republics. He met with Pashinian just hours before the start of the summit attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We attach great importance to developing and expanding relations with our friend and neighbor Armenia in all areas,” Rouhani said in his opening remarks at the meeting with Pashinian cited by the latter’s press office.
“We are ready to continue working with your government to devise and implement new projects and expand the volume of the gas-for-electricity program,” he added.
Armenia currently receives up to 500 million cubic meters of Iranian gas each year and pays for it with electricity supplied to Iran. This swap scheme mentioned by Rouhani is due to be significantly expanded after the construction of a third electricity transmission line connecting Armenian and Iranian power grids.
Work on the high-voltage line, which is mainly carried out in southeastern Armenia by an Iranian company, was supposed to be completed in September this year. Citing a senior Armenian official, the Sputnik news agency reported last week that the end of the construction has been delayed until the end of 2020 due to a host of factors, including the U.S. sanctions.
Rouhani already offered to boost Iranian gas supplies to Armenia when he received Pashinian in Tehran in February. The South Caucasus country’s annual gas imports total roughly 2 billion cubic meters and mostly come from Russia. According to the current and former Armenian governments, Russian gas is cheaper than Iranian gas.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian was among Iranian officials accompanying Rouhani on his latest visit to Armenia. Ardakanian met with Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian late on Monday. The two men co-chair an Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.
Meeting with Pashinian, Rouhani was also reported to hail growing Armenian-Iranian trade and say that Tehran looks forward cooperating with the EEU.
Iran and the EEU signed last year a preferential trade agreement which will come into force later this month. The deal was strongly backed by Armenia, the only member of the trade bloc that has a land border with the Islamic Republic.