TEHRAN (Combined Sources)–Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday as the two countries announced plans to start building two major hydro-electric sofficial on their border.
The meeting came on the last leg of Nalbandian’s three-day visit to Iran. It focused on deepening cooperation between the neighboring countries and discussing the progress of a series of bilateral economic agreements made during Ahmadinejad’s April 2009 visit to Armenia.
Nalbandian traveled to Iran Tuesday with Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsyan and Energy Minister Armen Movsisian for what the media speculated were meetings that would focus on a free-trade agreement and future energy projects–a focal point of Armenian-Iranian economic cooperation, RFE/RL’s Armenia Service reported.
Movsisian said the two countries would start building the stations in the coming weeks and possibly days. According to RFE/RL, he and his Iranian counterpart Majid Namju will inaugurate the start of construction work on the Arax river separating the two countries immediately after the agreement is officially signed in Yerevan.
RFE/RL quoted Armenian officials as saying Namju would probably arrive before the end of September. Movsisian, for his part, said the date was still being “clarified.”
The Armenian government formally approved the agreement and authorized Movsisian to sign it at a meeting earlier in the day. According ot RFE/RL, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan hailed the impending launch of the “important” commercial project that will give a major boost to Armenian-Iranian commercial ties.
The agreement envisages that the two power plants will be built on either side of the Armenian-Iranian border and have a capacity of 130 megawatts each. They both are to be built by an Iranian company, Farad-Sepasad, in the next five years, RFE/RL reported.
According to Movsisian, Armenia will finance its share of the project, which he estimated at $323 million, with future electricity supplies to Iran. “The Iranians will build, exploit the facility [located on the Armenian side of the border] and recoup their investments with electricity to be generated there,” RFE/RL quoted him as saying.
“We will need 15 years to pay back the [Iranian] investments with electricity supplies,” he said, adding that the plant will then become property of Armenia.
“This is going to be a cascade [of two hydro-electric stations] whose first facility will be located in Armenia,” explained Movsisian. “That is, water will first flow to and be used on the Armenian side and only then reach to the Iranian plant.”
Movsisian said in July that the planned construction of a third high-voltage transmission line connecting the Armenian and Iranian power grids and another Armenian-Iranian fuel pipeline will also get underway by the end of this year. The minister did not comment on these projects on Thursday.
In late 2008, Armenia and Iran inaugurated a natural gas pipeline connecting the two countries. Armenia began receiving modest amounts of Iranian gas through that pipeline in May last year. The volume of those deliveries is expected to soar in the next few years.