The late January visit to Armenia by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif got little media attention, but it could have significant ramifications for geopolitics in Eurasia. Specifically, the trip could help Russia gain a trade outlet that softens the blow of Western sanctions.
Zarif’s two-day stay in Armenia had all the usual diplomatic pomp and promises. It came on the back of an October visit to Tehran by a high-ranking delegation led by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. In Yerevan, Zarif met his counterpart Eduard Nalbandian and President Serzh Sargsyan. The statements that followed those meetings included plenty of the usual diplomatic rhetoric. But they also contained hints that the trip was more than mere diplomatic reciprocity.
Most significantly, Zarif said Iran has "no restrictions" in developing ties with Armenia, highlighting two areas in particular -- transportation and trade. On both fronts, the role of Russia looms large. First, both Tehran and Yerevan have emphasized the need to make progress on the construction of the Southern Armenia Railway, a project that would better link the two countries. On the issue of trade, Zarif praised Armenia’s accession to the Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and pointed to it as a potentially important development for Iran.
According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Zarif touted the EEU as providing “broader cooperation options to Iran, Armenia and Russia.” Iran’s ambassador to Moscow, Mehdi Sanai, earlier had said Tehran would look into signing a memorandum of understanding in 2015 on trade with the EEU. Such an agreement could spur an increase in Iranian exports to Russia. Sanai has been on record as saying Iranian-Russian trade should jump from the present $3-5 billion annually to $70 billion per year.

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