Armenia threatened with closure of border with Iran

Mamikon Babayan, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Armenia threatened with closure of border with Iran

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton's visit in October is still being discussed in the South Caucasus media. The open Armenian-Iranian border irritates Washington, and in an effort to isolate Iran, the United States is ready to sacrifice Armenia's interests, which still perceives this border as a way of life, breaking through the blockade against the republic.

Washington does not like Yerevan's independent policy towards Tehran, to which Armenia offers implementing joint economic projects. The closure of the Armenian-Iranian border will be a serious test for Armenia. Although the trade turnover between Armenia and Iran last year amounted to only $260 million, economic cooperation between the countries looks relatively promising. Armenia remains the only member of the EEU bordering Iran, as well as the Meghri free economic zone. Armenia needs supplies of Iranian gas, which is necessary for the republic to operate thermal power plants. Thermal stations in Armenia produce 4–4.5 kW/h from each cubic meter of gas. Of these, Armenia gives three to Iran, keeping the rest. The closure of the border will bury Armenia's hope for the railway connecting the two states, the construction of the second block of the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant, turning the republic into a peripheral island for the EEU. Finally, by closing the border, Armenia will lose one of the few partners in the Karabakh settlement issue, despite Tehran’s changing policy.

Meanwhile, the Armenian leadership apparently is full of hope for overcoming the crisis in its relations with Turkey, and Yerevan is seriously considering the issue of the de-blockade of the Armenian-Turkish border. Washington stands for the opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey, but it is worth bearing in mind that Armenia did not close the border with Turkey and is ready to enter into a dialogue with Ankara without preliminary conditions (the de-occupation of the Azerbaijani territories). But does Turkey need it? Is it ready to test the strong Baku-Ankara relationship? It will be extremely difficult for Washington to put pressure on Ankara - in the matter of opening the Armenian-Turkish border, Turkey will primarily focus on the interests of Azerbaijan, since Ankara does not expect significant revenues from the de-blockade of the border.

The revision of the Armenian-Iranian relationship is also prompted by the fact that during the past decade there were more good wishes in it, than concrete projects. This concerns the promising North-South Road Corridor, which was supposed to be the basis of the transport corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea. The idea of creating a new transit gas pipeline, which did not find a response in Armenia, remained unclaimed. The implementation of such projects largely rested against Iran’s complicated relations with the West and the United States.

One way or another, the Armenian authorities should approach the adoption of significant decisions from the strongest possible positions, since the Armenian opposition can accuse the leadership of the republic of undermining national security at any moment. The opening of the Armenian-Turkish border would have pushed Yerevan towards an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh. The condition for restoring diplomatic relations with Armenia for Turkey and Azerbaijan at this stage could be the liberation of two thirds of the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has no need to be hastily on the issue of the de-blockade of a common border with Armenia, given that Yerevan’s foreign policy is characterized by steady reactionism, especially since now Ankara is completely free to discuss issues relating to the future of Armenia.