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Iranian Defense Official Visits Armenia

Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian

Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian

YEREVAN -- Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozafari Nia has discussed military ties with Armenian officials in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Mozafari Nia met with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and his first deputy, Davit Tonoyan, during the talks on May 3.

An Armenian Defense Ministry statement said they spoke about "issues related to Armenian-Iranian cooperation in the area of defense."

A ministry source linked the talks with Ohanian's official visit to Tehran last July. The source told RFE/RL they focused on the implementation of Armenian-Iranian agreements reached during that trip.

While in Tehran, Ohanian met with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, and other top Iranian officials. Official Armenian and Iranian sources said both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening Armenian-Iran ties and stressed their importance for peace in the region.

"Cordial bonds between Iran and Armenia will help maintain peace and stability in the region," Ohanian said then. Few other details of his talks were reported.

Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Ara Nazarian reportedly said late last month that bilateral relations have now reached "the highest level." He also reaffirmed Yerevan's positive assessment of Iran's role in regional security.

"Over the past years, Iran has followed a conscious and coherent policy in the region," the IRNA news agency quoted Nazarian as saying at a ceremony organized by the Iranian Embassy in Armenia. The event marked Iran's National Army Day.

Defense and security have arguably been the least advanced component of Armenia's warm rapport with Iran, which has centered on economic cooperation and joint energy projects. Still, military cooperation between the two neighboring states has prompted serious concern from the United States on at least one occasion.

According to a classified U.S. diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks in December, Washington accused Armenia of re-exporting weapons to Iran and threatened sanctions against Yerevan in late 2008.

In a secret December 2008 letter, then Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte pressed President Serzh Sarkisian to "ensure such transfers do not occur in the future."

Sarkisian has pursued close ties with Iran throughout his three-year presidency. Visiting Tehran in late March, he described the Armenian-Iranian relationship as "truly exemplary" and called for its expansion.

Relations with Iran is a rare matter of consensus in Armenia, reflecting its unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan over Baku's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh and strained relations with another Muslim neighbor, Turkey.

With the Armenian-Azerbaijani and Armenian-Turkish borders closed for almost two decades, Iran is one of landlocked Armenia's two conduits to the outside world.