Ahmadinejad Praises Growing Ties with Armenia

A0185372.jpgIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday praised growing economic and political cooperation with Armenia, shoring up closer ties between Tehran and Yerevan. “We consider our neighborly relations with Armenia to be very important and a means of strengthening security and stability” in the region, Ahmadinejad said after meeting his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, on the first day of a two-day visit here.

The presidents announced the opening of a new highway linking the two countries and plans to build a cross-border railroad. They also said they had discussed joint projects to build an oil refinery, a hydroelectric power plant and wind power stations along their shared border.

“We will decisively and quickly realize joint programs on the establishment of major infrastructure projects,” Ahmadinejad said. “This is in the interest of our two countries and the region as a whole.”

Kocharian said the new railway was in the planning stages and praised new transportation links as a chance to “increase the flow of goods between our two countries.”

Landlocked Armenia has sought closer links with Iran because of an economic blockade imposed by neighbors Azerbaijan and Turkey over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region, as well as Armenia’s efforts to gain international recognition of Ottoman-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

In March, Kocharian and Ahmadinejad inaugurated a 150-kilometre (93-mile) pipeline that will deliver 36 billion cubic meters (1.27 trillion cubic feet) of gas from Iran to Armenia over 20 years. Armenia will pay for the gas with electricity it produces at a nuclear plant.

Ahmadinejad was scheduled on Tuesday to visit a memorial to victims of the Ottoman massacres of Armenians between 1915 and 1917.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated killings during the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

A pending US Congressional vote on a resolution labeling the massacres as genocide has angered Turkey, which says 250,000 to 500,000 Armenians were killed during civil strife and rejects the notion that it was genocide.

Ahmadinejad was also scheduled Tuesday to visit Yerevan’s Blue Mosque and to meet with members of the Iranian community here.

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