In an interview with Tert.am, Suren Sargsyan, Teaching Assistant, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, says that Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Russia cooperation could be an alternative to the newly formed Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran format.
With the trilateral format in effect, Armenia should intensify cooperation with Iran because products manufactured due to Armenian investments, but not in Armenia, could reach Russia from Iran through Azerbaijan duty-free.
Mr Sargsyan, a new Russian-Iranian-Azerbaijani meeting took place in Baku yesterday. What is Armenia’s role? Will it not remain outside regional projects again?
In this respect, Armenia’s opportunities are restricted. We are not involved in certain regional projects for a number of subjective and objective reasons. First, our geopolitical situation is not favorable for Armenia to be a transit country for energy carriers and means of transportation. We have no outlet to the sea or open borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, which prevents us from being properly involved in regional transport of energy projects. The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is the only regional project we are involved in, and this is the reason for Azerbaijan not joining the EEU. If Armenia had a common border with the EEU or Georgia joined the EEU, Armenia would easily become a transit country connecting Iran and Russia. The Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Russia format could be an alternative. If Russian-Georgian relations improve and we can play a mediatory role, Georgia would also be interested in the quadripartite format because it remained outside the trilateral format. The Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Russia cooperation could be an alternative to the newly created trilateral format. Such an initiative is quite to the point and the scenario is a viable one. With the trilateral format in effect, Armenia should intensify cooperation with Iran because products manufactured due to Armenian investments, but not in Armenia, could reach Russia from Iran through Azerbaijan duty-free. And our business should be flexible and take the opportunity.
In your opinion, which of the states proposed the Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran format?
First of all, it is clear that the Russia-Iran-Azerbaijan format was Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s idea. It is also clear that the new format will be permanent, and the idea is based not only on economic, but also on geopolitical factors. As to Iran, international sanctions have been lifted, which implies that state is going to be a great regional power soon. In this respect, Russia and Azerbaijan have taken the right course, relying on this state of affairs. Of interest is the fact that this format was proposed along with Russia-Turkey reconciliation process. That is, Azerbaijan has proposed its idea to the world only after the two regional superpowers started a reconciliation process.
What is Russia’s benefit from this cooperation?
First, Russia cannot remain outside the regional process. Moreover, President Vladimir Putin has presented his ideas of the trilateral format’s agenda – at least in terms of Russia’s expectations. According to Mr Putin, the Three should be able to properly distribute the Caspian energy resources, give impetus to the development of trade relations between the three states. Of paramount importance are also joint efforts to combat drug trafficking and international terrorism. It is a highly important wording as all the three states have become transit states for Islamists. We should not forget that ethnic Azerbaijanis constitute a large number of Islamic State gunmen, according to Russian media. By and large, however beneficial the format could be to Russia in economic terms, EEU development and expansion remains Russia’s priority. It is no coincidence at all that, in an interview a couple of days ago, the Russian president stressed that Iran could become the EEU’s major partner, and a new Iran-EEU cooperation agreement was most likely to be signed in the near future.