WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today welcomed the vote by a powerful Congressional panel to block U.S. taxpayer funding for an unnecessary and costly proposed railroad between Turkey and Georgia that would, if built, circumvent Armenia and, in the process, undermine the economic viability of the existing Caucasus railroad route through Armenia.
With a unanimous voice vote earlier today, the House Financial Services Committee adopted the amendment offered by panel member Joe Crowley (D-NY). The measure prohibits the Export-Import Bank from providing any assistance “to develop or promote any rail connections or railway-related connections that traverse or connect Baku, Azerbaijan; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Kars, Turkey, and that specifically exclude cities in Armenia.”
Rep. Crowley serves as the Chief Deputy Minority Whip. His amendment to the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2006 was co-authored by Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA).
“We thank Congressman Crowley, his colleagues Ed Royce and Brad Sherman, and all the members of the Financial Services Committee for protecting American taxpayers from subsidizing an ill-advised and over-priced railroad project that – at the insistence of Turkey and Azerbaijan – has been proposed solely to exclude Armenia,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.
“With this amendment, we are sending a message to the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan that continually excluding Armenia in regional projects fosters instability,” said Congressman Crowley. “Bypassing Armenia is just another attempt to further suffocate this republic, which has made great strides in democratic and economic reforms notwithstanding its neighbors’ hostility. If the Caucasus region is to move forward, we must ensure that all countries move forward together at the same time.”
He added that, “The American taxpayer should not be required to finance a project that goes against the interests of the US government in the South Caucasus. I thank my colleagues for recognizing the importance of this legislation.”
A proposed new Caucasus rail line – at the urging of Turkey and Azerbaijan – would circumvent Armenia. Promoters of the project have sought, even at the planning stages, to secure U.S. financing for this undertaking, prompting Congressional friends of Armenia to preemptively block such attempts.
The Crowley Amendment is similar to the South Caucasus Integration and Open Railroads Act of 2006. This measure was introduced in both the House (H.R.3361), by Representative Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), and in the Senate (S 2461) by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). The House version has 85 cosponsors; the Senate version has been cosponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD). Both measures stress that U.S. policy should oppose the “The exclusion of Armenia from regional economic and commercial undertakings in the South Caucasus,” noting that such actions “undermine the United States policy goal of promoting a stable and cooperative environment in the region.”
Thousands of activists throughout the United States have sent ANCA WebFaxes to members of Congress in support of this legislation.
In October of last year, the European Commission voiced official opposition to the proposed Caucasus railroad bypass of Armenia. A formal statement by the Commission’s Directorate General for Transport and Energy noted that its construction was both unnecessary and inefficient in light of the existing railroad connecting Kars, Gyumri, and Tbilisi.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States. Ex-Im Bank’s mission is to assist in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets.
Below are several of the key talking points used by the ANCA in support of the Crowley Amendment.
The Crowley Amendment:
Protecting U.S. Taxpayers, Promoting U.S. Interests
1) The proposed railway would hinder economic integration, undermine stability in the region, and – at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer – help Azerbaijan and Turkey institutionalize their illegal blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
2) Turkey and Azerbaijan have instituted an illegal blockade against land-locked Armenia for over a decade and are now escalating their economic aggression by initiating new projects specifically bypassing Armenia.
3) Refusing to use an existing railway that connects Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan because it traverses Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan are spearheading a nearly $1 billion project to build an entirely new railway that deliberately excludes Armenia.
4) U.S. tax dollars should not be spent on such a wasteful and destabilizing venture.
5) In the interest of promoting regional integration, conflict resolution, and open borders, the U.S. should not provide any assistance to develop or promote rail connections that deliberately exclude Armenia.
6) Despite continued calls from the U.S. and international community to end its aggression, Turkey continues its devastating, illegal blockade of land-locked Armenia now in its 12th year.
7) The dual blockade by both Turkey and Azerbaijan prevents Armenia’s economy from flourishing and hinders the development of an important East-West trade corridor.