Despite religious and ideological differences, relations between Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran remain cordial and Armenia and Iran are strategic partners in the region.
The two neighbouring countries share to a great extent similar history and culture, and have had relations for thousands of years, starting with the Median Empire. The territory of nowadays Armenia made part of Iran up to 1828, when it was forcefully ceded to neighbouring Imperial Russia through the consequences of the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828) and the resulting Treaty of Turkmenchay. There are no border disputes between the two countries and the Christian Armenian minority in Iran, amongst the largest and oldest communities in the world, enjoys official recognition. Of special importance is the cooperation in the field of energy security which lowers Armenia's dependence on Russia and can in the future also supply Iranian gas to Europe through Georgia and the Black Sea.
Stepan Safarian, of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, has said "Given this geopolitical environment, Armenia has the legitimate right to cooperate with Iran for ensuring its security...Besides, Armenia has an energy surplus and its only major export market at present is Iran...So there is also a lot of economic interest involved."
Due to the long shared intertwined history, and with the Armenians having a native presence in what is nowadays northwestern Iran for millennia, many of the oldest Armenian churches and monasteries are located within Iran, such as the Saint Stepanos Monastery and St. Thaddeus Monastery, amongst others. Armenia and Iran also share extensive touristic and trade ties.
Iran and Armenia have been in close contact for thousands of years. Since Antiquity there has always been much interaction between Ancient Armenia and Persia (Iran). The Armenian people are amongst the native ethnic groups of northwestern Iran (known as Iranian Azerbaijan), having millennia long recorded history there while the region (or parts of it) have had made up part of historical Armenia numerous times in history. These historical Armenian regions that nowadays include Iranian Azerbaijan are Nor Shirakan, Vaspurakan, and Paytakaran. Many of the oldest Armenian chapels, monasteries and churches in the world are located within this region of Iran.
Armenia was conquered by the Persian Empire numerous times throughout history, particularly by the Median, Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanid empires, and the Safavid, Afsharid, and Qajar dynasties. Due to the large cultural and historical ties, Armenia is often considered part of Greater Iran. Armenia and Iran enjoy cultural and historical ties that go back thousands of years.
On the Behistun inscription of 515 BC, Darius the Great indirectly confirmed that Urartu and Armenia are synonymous when describing his conquests. Armenia became a satrap of the Persian Empire for a long period of time. Regardless, relations between Armenians and Persians were cordial.
The cultural links between the Armenians and the Persians can be traced back to Zoroastrian times. Prior to the 3rd century AD, no other neighbor had as much influence on Armenian life and culture as Parthia. They shared many religious and cultural characteristics, and intermarriage among Parthian and Armenian nobility was common. For twelve more centuries, Armenia was under the direct or indirect rule of the Persians.
What is now modern day Armenia got only separated from Iran by the Russian victory in the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828). This loss in the 1826-1828 Russo-Iranian War in the first half of the 19th century made Iran irrevocably cede its Armenian territories (amongst other territories), which made part of the concept of Iran for centuries, to Imperial Russia as confirmed in the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828. Following the incorporation by Russia, Armenia stayed within the Russian sphere until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
New peace mediation efforts were initiated by the Iranian President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the first half of 1992, after the events in Khojaly and the resignation of Azeri President Ayaz Mutallibov. By conducting shuttle diplomacy in Armenia and Azerbaijan for several weeks, Iranian diplomats were able to bring new President of Azerbaijan Yaqub Mammadov and President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosian to Tehran for bilateral talks on 7 May 1992. The Tehran Communiqué was signed by Mammadov, Ter-Petrosian, and Rafsanjani following the agreement of the parties to international legal norms, stability of borders and to deal with the refugee crisis. However, the peace efforts were disrupted on the next day when Armenian troops captured the town of Shusha and failed following the capture of the town Lachin on 18 May.
The Armenian diaspora in Iran is one of the biggest and oldest Armenian communities in the world, as well as the largest in the Middle East. Although Armenians have a long history of interaction and intertwined socio-cultural record with Persia/Iran, Iran's Armenian community emerged when Shah Abbas relocated hundreds of thousands of Armenians from Nakhichevan, at that time on the frontier with the rivalling neighboring Ottoman Empire, to an area of Isfahan called New Julfa in the early 17th century, which was created to become an Armenian quarter. Iran quickly recognized the Armenians' dexterity in commerce. The community became active in the cultural and economic development of Iran.
The remaining Armenian minority in the Islamic Republic of Iran is still the largest Christian community in the country, ahead of the Assyrians. The Armenians remain the most powerful religious minority in Iran. They are appointed two seats in Iranian Parliament (the most within the Religious minority branch) and are the only minority with official Observing Status in the Guardian and Expediency Discernment Councils. Today in Iran there are about 150,000 - 300,000 Armenians left, half of which live in the Tehran area. A quarter live in Isfahan, and the other quarter is concentrated in Northwestern Iran or Iranian Azerbaijan. The majority of Armenians live in the suburbs of Tehran, most notably Narmak, Majidiyeh, Nadershah, etc.
Of special importance is the cooperation in the field of energy security. In addition to a pipeline that brings Iranian natural gas into Armenia, has been completed many years ago. Additionally, the two states have also implemented other multimillion-dollar energy projects.[which?] These include the construction of two hydro-electric plants on the Arax River that marks the Armenian-Iranian border, a third high-voltage transmission line linking their power grids and dams, among other projects.
In July, 2007, a memorandum was signed on the start of feasibility studies on the ideas of building an Armenian-Iranian railway and a Russian-owned oil refinery that would process Iranian crude. In addition, the Armenian and Iranian governments have been working on a bilateral free trade agreement that could be signed by the end of 2007.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been quoted as saying "The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes and supports the development of ties with Armenia in various areas, particularly in energy as well as transportation, sports, and tourism."
In 2014, the Iranian and Armenian energy ministers agreed on the construction of a new power transmission line from Armenia to Iran in line with the two country’s efforts to boost energy ties.
In June 2015, both nations agreed to start building the 3rd power transmission line. It will be completed in 2018. Once the project comes on steam, it will almost triple electricity exchange between the two neighbouring countries.
Armenia and Iran share extensive touristic ties. About 35,000 Iranian tourists visited Armenia in the first half of 2014, of a total of 495,967 tourists that had come to Armenia in the first half of 2014. This showed an increase of 17.3% compared to the same period last year. In 2014, Iran ranked 4th in the largest number of tourists that visit Armenia, behind Russia (44% of the total number of tourists), Georgia (28%), and the EU (Germany, France, Italy and Scandinavia). As of 2014, Iranian tourists amounted up to 7% of the total number of foreign tourists visiting Armenia.
The number of Iranian tourists visiting Armenia had been steadily on the rise for years, and the two nations have already unveiled plans to sign a memorandum on cooperation in the field of tourism.
“Iran is an important market for us. This country is not only our neighbor, but we have good neighborly relations with it, which is important for the sphere.”
- Head of the Department of Tourism at Armenia’s Ministry of Economy Mekhak Apresyan, July 2014.
Iranian Parthian and Persian had a massive lexical and vocabulary impact on Armenian language. In fact, when linguists tried to classify Armenian in the late 19th century, they (erroneously) classified it as an Iranian language.
Due to the very long shared intertwined histories, many of the oldest Armenian chapels, monasteries and churches in the world can be found within modern-day Iran. Some of these are the Saint Stepanos Monastery, the St. Thaddeus Monastery, amongst others.
Iran's cultural attaché to Armenia, Reza Atufi, has announced that the two countries have reached a preliminary agreement to make a joint television series. He said that the joint venture would portray the social and cultural life of Iran and Armenia and expand cinematic ties between the two countries.
Several of Iran's millennia to century old Armenian monasteries and churches in the nation have been inscribed for several years now (since 2008) in the UNESCO world heritage list, under the name of the "Armenian Monastic Ensemble of Iran".
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Relations of Armenia and Iran.|
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- ARMENIA AND IRAN iv. History, discussion, and the presentation of Iranian influences in Armenian Language over the millennia
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- ARMENIA AND IRAN vi. Armeno-Iranian relations in the Islamic period