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Confusion Surrounds Former Armenian President's Visit To Iran

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) meets with former Armenian President Robert Kocharian in Tehran on January 21.

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) meets with former Armenian President Robert Kocharian in Tehran on January 21.

Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian travelled to Iran last week for a two-day visit that has been variously described as "private" and "unofficial," or, alternatively, undertaken as the result of a "state invitation" extended by the Iranian leadership.

Kocharian met with both Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and with Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki. The "Tehran Times" quoted him as telling Mottaki on January 20 that "foreign powers'" prescriptions for resolving crises in the Caucasus region are "destructive."

Kocharian's spokesman, Viktor Soghomonian, however, said that Kocharian did not make any "political statements." "In all likelihood, what happened is the result of a misunderstanding or incorrect translation by the media," Soghomonian said.

The visit triggered considerable speculation in Armenia, as Kocharian has maintained a low profile since his second term ended in April 2008. Some media outlets have claimed that he traveled to Tehran at the behest of his successor, Serzh Sarkisian.

Levon Zurabian of the opposition Armenian National Congress suggested that Kocharian's mission was directly connected to the ongoing Karabakh peace process. The opposition "Chorrord inknishkhanutiun" (Fourth Self-Rule) speculated that unspecified Armenian officials dispatched Kocharian to Tehran in response to mounting Western pressure on Armenia. "Kocharian is a very convenient candidate for this role because he does not represent anyone and has no official status."

Speaking to journalists on January 22, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said Kocharian's visit to Tehran was "private, but at the invitation of the leadership of the Islamic republic." He said no statements were made in the course of that visit which contradict "what Armenia wants now."

Nalbandian also announced on January 22 that Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki will arrive in Yerevan on January 26 to attend a session of the Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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