YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Trade and industry officials from Armenia–Greece and Iran discussed in Yerevan on Wednesday ways of promoting trilateral economic cooperation–which they said is held up by the absence of effective mechanisms for the implementation of earlier agreemen’s. "In spite of the great potential in each member state for cooperation in this field and the suitable arrangemen’s established for this purpose–the steps taken so far for the implementation of the previous agreemen’s are not satisfying," deputy ministers of industry and trade of Armenia and Iran and the chief of the external relations division at the Greek ministry of economy said in a memorandum.
The three officials presided over the second session of the committee on industry–technology and technology–one of the bodies operating under the aegis of the Armenia-Greece-Iran economic grouping. Armen Gevorgian–Armenia’s deputy minister of trade and industry–said at a joint news conference that agreement was reached on "giving a new impetus" to trilateral cooperation in the corresponding areas.
"The Parties noted that there is strong political will among them to expand trilateral trade as an engine for cooperation in other economic sectors," the memorandum said. "They agreed that there is an urgent need for coordination and harmonization of their laws and regulations affecting trade."
The document calls for joint projects in the chemical–pharmaceutical and construction sectors. A group of Iranian businessmen attending the meeting proposed to open a number of manufacturing enterprises in Armenia with the financial assistance of their Greek and other Western partners. Iran has been one of Armenia’s main trade partners since the break-up of the Soviet Union–with the volume of bilateral trade exceeding $110 million last year. By contrast–Armenia’s trade with Greece has been on a much smaller scale–which is primarily due to high transportation costs involved.
The tripartite grouping was set up in late 1997 with the stated aim of promoting commercial links between the three nations with a long history of interaction. But observers note that Armenia–Greece and Iran–which share strained relations with Turkey–also expect geopolitical benefits from closer ties.
Vassilios Kanellakis–head of the Greek delegation said political cooperation is much easier to achieve than economic. "The main difficulty lies in the identification of programs that are of common interest to the three parties," he said.