COULD IRANIAN SANCTIONS CLOSE ARMENIA'S THIRD BORDER?
Giorgi Lomsadze

EurasiaNet.org
Nov 29 2011
NY

Landlocked Armenia's world is claustrophobic enough as it is,
with borders closed to the left and right with neighbors Turkey and
Azerbaijan. Now, according to ex-Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian,
a fresh series of international sanctions against Iran threatens to
shut Armenia's third, southern border as well, and choke off a key
trade route -- a development that "Armenia cannot afford," he told
Al Jazeera.

With some $300 billion in bilateral trade turnover a year, Iran is
Armenia's fourth largest trade partner. Tehran, eager for clout in the
region, has been keen to take that partnership still further, but these
plans could be jeopardized by Western efforts to starve the Iranian
government into abandoning its nuclear ambitions, Oskanian reasoned.

"Clearly those [new] sanctions are going to bite Armenia" and
"will be tantamount for Armenia to a third closed border," Oskanian
said. He noted that Yerevan will have no other choice but to respect
its obligations to the West and enforce the sanctions. The European
Union is the main outlet for Armenian goods and Armenia, its economy
still trying to stagger out from under the effects of the international
financial crisis, is a recipient of Western aid.

If the border with Iran effectively shuts down, that would leave
Armenia with only a northern, land-based trade gate. This route
lies across Georgia -- not exactly a bosom buddy, historically -- to
Armenia's biggest trade partner and ally, Russia. But Georgian-Russian
tensions cast a pall on the reliability of this route.

Desperate for foreign investment and trade opportunities, Armenia,
which saw its Moody's rating downgraded recently, does not have much
incentive simply to sit and wait for Tbilisi and the Kremlin to patch
things up.

Ever the chess player, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is now
working to strengthen ties with somewhat friendly Georgia. On November
29, he was warmly received in Tbilisi by Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili, who again enthused about his idea of uniting the Caucasus
(minus Russia) through a common economic space and potential political
union.

But while Georgia hopes to diminish Russia's role in the Caucasus,
Armenia's main economic interest is make sure that Georgia functions
well as a layover point for Russia-bound goods. That could mean more
visits for Sargsyan in store.

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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress