The Role of Armenia in Iran's Foreign Policy

Published November 22nd, 2022 - 06:21 GMT
Armenia - Iran
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The relations between Armenia and Iran have a history of several millennia. The history of Armenia cannot be separated from the history of Iran. Relations between Armenians and Iranians go back to ancient times. In some periods, Armenia was under the influence or occupation of empires such as the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanid governments. Before the Iran-Russia wars in the 18th century, essential parts of Armenia were in the territory of the Iranian governments.

In the last century, through its consulate in Yerevan, Iran had proper relations with the first Republic of Armenia (1918) and then Armenia, as part of the Soviet Union.

Geopolitical and political dimensions

Iran was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the Republic of Armenia. Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Iran were established in February 1992, and both sides' embassies were opened. During the first Karabakh war in 1992-1994 and the closing of the border with Azerbaijan and Turkey, Iran was the savior of Armenia. Armenia is neighbored by two actors: Iran and Turkey, and two smaller countries: Georgia and Azerbaijan.


Factors such as the economy, Iran's position in the region (connection with the free Seas), the country's historical background, cultural factors, Iran's resources, etc. are among the points that Yerevan pays attention to them when looking at Iran. Meanwhile, despite the absence of territorial disagreement between the two countries, relations with Iran are among the priorities of the foreign policy of the Republic of Armenia in the (2021-2026) five-year plan for expanding relations.


In fact, the absence of ideological-political and historical conflicts (such as the issue of the Armenian Genocide and the conflict between Armenian and the Turks), the signing of important documents and about 180 international treaties, agreements, notes, and protocols between the two countries is an essential opportunity for the growth of Tehran-Erevan relations in political and geopolitical fields. Also, in recent years, the friendship group, joint commissions, meetings and regular contacts between high-ranking officials, and mutual meetings between the two side’s officials such as the Speaker of the Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister, the Presidents have helped to develop cooperation.  In addition, it seems that Armenia is more eager than before to seek a strategic partnership with Iran.


The strategic geopolitical importance of the Caucasus for Iran can be understood from the great battles between Iran, Russia, and the Ottomans in recent centuries. As one of the most important actors in the South Caucasus, Iran has tried to play an effective role in the political, security, and economic equations of the region. In the past three decades, Tehran has tried to use the policy of maintaining neutrality, emphasizing the necessity of maintaining peace and stability in the region, and the necessity of resorting to peaceful solutions and negotiations to resolve the conflict in the Karabakh conflict.

Now, Tehran continues to pursue those approaches regarding the establishment of a ceasefire and the peace process, consultations with the parties to the conflict, and other regional partners. Also, from Tehran's point of view, any instability in the Caucasus is a threat to Iran's national security. Therefore, by supporting the diplomatic dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it continues the policy of cooperation with the neighbors.


Apart from this, although Iran supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, it cannot be a spectator of the siege of Armenia, the loss of relations with Yerevan, the connection of Turkey to Central Asia, and the strengthening of NATO's presence in the region. It means, despite some recent advances of Azerbaijan in the strategic heights of the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Iran's national interests can be seen in consolidating Armenia's independence and ensuring Armenia's internal stability and not removing the 44-kilometer border with Iran. In this area, Tehran, like Washington, does not want Azerbaijan's aggressive efforts to lead to the complete defeat of Armenia.


In addition, Iran is still concerned about the goals and plans of Turkey, the spread of the ideology of Pan-Turkism, and the growing cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel. In this framework, the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia is Iran's red line, and Tehran sees the loss of Armenian control over the Syunik region in the south of Armenia bordering Iran (between Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan) as part of the "Zangezur Corridor" program, against its interests.

Therefore, Tehran considers the military exercise, the deployment of troops in the northwest of Iran, and the opening of the Iranian Consulate General in Syunik (the southernmost province of Armenia) as a serious message to oppose any change in the borders and support the territorial integrity of Armenia. From this point of view, any change in the historical and geopolitical boundaries of the region and their territorial integrity or any western military presence is seen as a strategic threat to Iran.

Also, while Yerevan sees Tehran as an actor that can balance Turkey in the region, Tehran still welcomes the creation of the 3+3 format (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia plus Iran, Russia, and Turkey) for regional cooperation. It also looks at the convergence of Armenia's long-term interests with Iran, Russia, and possibly China and India. In another dimension, with the existence of the Armenian diaspora community in the West and many other countries, Armenia can actually play an important role and sometimes a mediator between Iran and other actors such as France or America.


Economic and commercial dimensions

Iran became one of the main trade partners of Armenia in the 1990s. The economic relations between Iran and Armenia had little growth in three decades, but the trade relations grew more after the establishment of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, the establishment of the Aras Free Zone in Iran, and the Armenian Free Economic Zone near the border with Iran. In line with the neighborhood policy, Tehran has put holding bilateral meetings for the development of economic relations, on the agenda.


In addition, in the past years, the construction of the North-South Corridor and the negotiations for the creation of the "Persian Gulf - Black Sea" international multi-purpose transportation corridor, which connects Iran to Europe through Armenia, Georgia, and the Black Sea, have been under Tehran’s consideration. While the Armenian government considers the railway connection with Iran and the completion of the North-South Corridor as one of its goals and priorities, Iran is considering using the power of Iranian companies in the field of technical and engineering services, for the construction of the North-South Corridor.

In fact, Tehran considers Armenia to be one of the most essential transit countries of this project and believes that the international corridors project in the form of the participation of important players such as Russia, China, and India will greatly contribute to the development of communications and transit. Also, the gas swap operation from Turkmenistan to Armenia and the extension of the gas and electricity swap contract until 2030 are considered steps in the field of energy diplomacy in cooperation with Armenia. Meanwhile, considering Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Economic Union(EAEU), if Iran becomes a full member of the Eurasian Economic Union, it will have better access to Eurasian markets through Armenia.


Also, the trade relations between Iran and Armenia in the period of January to August 2022 amounted to 427 million dollars. In this line, there are other agreements such as the establishment of a joint industrial campus, the development of small and medium industries, the development of bilateral cooperation, the provision of business opportunities, the improvement of the investment environment in a way in line with the roadmap of Iran and Armenia to bring closer relations and increase trade relations to 3 4 billion dollars.


Cultural and civilizational dimensions

Cultural and civilizational dimensions are an essential part of real potential in bilateral relations. The racial, geographical, historical, and cultural commonalities of Iran and Armenia are such that practically no religious difference is visible. Having seats in the parliament, the important Armenian community in Iran, , is the largest religious minority in Iran. The Armenian language is connected with the Persian language and cultural interaction is still important in areas such as music.
 

In recent years, the signing and implementation of cultural agreements, scientific and academic cooperation, and the annual presence of 200,000 Iranian tourists from Armenia have been another part of the bilateral relations between Iran and Armenia in the field of culture and civilization.


Vision

The mutual needs and historical, civilizational, and cultural ties of Armenia and Iran are so wide that they can overcome the periodic differences and challenges of relations. In fact, although sanctions against Iran and obstacles such as the lack of infrastructure and administrative and bureaucratic systems prevent the immediate increase of economic relations between the two countries, however, the creation of opportunities and a new geopolitical, security, and political situation has caused the two countries to pay more attention to the expansion of cooperation. This is while it seems that many actors in the West and East do not have an opposing view on the expansion of relations between Armenia and Iran.


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