Just over a week after welcoming the highest-ranking US official to visit Armenia, the country’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his country will pursue its own national interests and continue to have close relations with neighbouring Iran, one of Yerevan’s biggest trading partners.
“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the US delegation,” Pashinyan said.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton the Armenian capital of Yerevan as part of a South Caucasus tour where he had hoped to convince Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to support the Donald J. Trump’s initiative to isolate Iran through a new round of punishing economic sanctions that most experts believe is an attempt to foment regime change in the Islamic Republic.
While Pashinyan’s reformist agenda has focused on bringing Armenia out of a post-Soviet economic abyss that forces the landlocked nation to be nearly wholly dependent on Russia for energy and security, he was quick to point out that Yerevan has no interest in damaging relations with its southern neighbour.
“We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country…Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries,” Pashinyan told Armenia’s national assembly after meeting with Bolton.
Bolton has since conceded that the Trump administration is unlikely to “squeeze Iran” by forcing other nations into halting the imports of Iranian oil.
“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that.”