-Mr. Sargsyan, could you describe Iran’s role in the region against the background of the recent events?
– The role of Iran as a powerful regional state is extremely important, and it is natural enough that it has its own interests in the region. These interests are diverse. Iran’s significance is especially relevant in the Russia-Armenia-Iran axis. In the current situation, when Armenia is blocked by Turkey and Azerbaijan, the importance of Iran, especially in what is related to Armenia (which is also vital for Iran’s policy in the region) is colossal not only in the sense of diversification of energy source, but also from the political viewpoint. Regardless the extent of rapprochement or distancing of their positions, Turkey and Iran have always tried to occupy the dominating positions in the process of consolidation of the countries with Muslim populations, and there has always been a Turkish-Iranian confrontation in such process. In this context it is very important how they are involved in the Trans-Caucasus and Central Asia. Unlike Turkey, Iran can establish relations with the Central Asian countries without the Trans-Caucasus, taking into account the advantageous geographic location; meanwhile Turkey has two ways for connection with the Central Asia: either via Iran, or through the Trans-Caucasus, relying on Georgia and Azerbaijan. So the game of their relations increases the significance of these two states for the Caucasian countries.
It is also necessary to take into account that millions of ethnic Azerbaijanis live in Iran, and they have already tried to raise the issues of their independence or reunification with Azerbaijan through various demonstrations, manifestations and some other ways. Having this into consideration, Iran is building its relations with Azerbaijan, based on its interests, and it is difficult to see Iran’s and Azerbaijan’s interests overlapping.
We should also note that, unlike Turkey, Iran is capable and can dictate in many issues, using its energy resources. At the same time, the economical power of Turkey is higher, and it is trying to get involved into the region just through economical activity. We see how peculiar is the economical competition between Turkey and Iran, especially in the Trans-Caucasian countries. At the same time it is necessary to point out that Turkey succeeds in maintaining normal relations with the West and successfully manoeuvring (since the beginning of the 20th century up to now) between Russia and the West, which cannot be said about Iran. Unlike Turkey, the relations between Iran and the West have been more and more aggravated, and the West is even trying to apply sanctions against Iran. These factors distinguish Iran from the countries of the region. I think that it is necessary to attach a systemic format to already existing Iranian-Armenian relations, taking into account Iran’s role in the economical development of Armenia, especially while the blockade continues.
– In which concrete spheres it is necessary to develop the relations? And what about the relations with Karabakh?
– I think that the relations between Iran and Karabakh will be de jure formalized after the recognition of the NKR independence. I mean the direct relations, as far as nobody wants to establish direct relations with non-recognized states, including Iran. As for the Armenian-Iranian relations, it seems that they are developing very well from day to day. The level of communication between the peoples is also quite high, and it is the economical factor that lies in the basis of that communication. Meanwhile Iran is extremely cautious in the political context. If we compare the Iran-Armenia and Turkey-Azerbaijan relations, we would have to admit that Turkey conducts much more active and aggressive policy in favour of Azerbaijan, than Iran does, which is politically very cautious, while pursuing a very active economical policy. I think that it is necessary to deepen the political relations with Iran.
– How would you describe Iran’s role in safeguarding security and stability in the region?
– If you carefully follow the Iranian policy, you can see that it is extremely wary. Iran is trying to conduct a stable policy, which is the evidence of the fact that Iran’s role in maintaining peace is much higher than Turkey’s. Even in the relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Iran’s policy has not caused any problem, if a pair of cases are not mentioned, when there were problems with Azerbaijanis, living in Iran.
– What can Iran do in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict?
– I think that it is a global problem. Each country has its interests. Iran does not hamper Karabakh’s de facto independence, but de jure stressing the principle of territorial integrity, and in the current geopolitical situation Iran is unable to display more activity. However, I am confident that some issues can be settled. For example, members of the French Parliament visit NKR without any problem, meeting the Karabakh MPs; deputies of other parliaments have also visited us. Parliament is a people’s institute, and I think steps should be taken in this direction. It is possible to establish cultural and any other ties to intensify the relations between Iran and NKR, which cannot pose any obstacle for the global politics or projects. We can also work out plans for preservation of the cultural legacy of both sides, restoration and rehabilitation of the Armenian and Persian monuments. There are other spheres of co operations as well, and this gap should be filled.