December 6, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918 / (703) 585-8254 cell

ANCA WELCOMES HOUSE ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION TO BLOCK U.S. SUBSIDY FOR ARMENIA RAILROAD BYPASS

Rep. Crowley Leads Efforts to Secure Final Adoption before Congress Adjourns

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives, as part of its efforts to resolve outstanding legislation during an end-of-year “lame duck” session, today adopted legislation that includes a provision protecting U.S. taxpayers from funding an unnecessary and costly proposed railroad between Turkey and Georgia that would, if built, circumvent Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“Armenian Americans welcome today’s action by the U.S. House of Representatives and look forward to the Senate’s final approval of the measure and, of course, its signature into law by the President,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We appreciate this principled stand by Congress against Turkey and Azerbaijan’s efforts to institutionalize their illegal blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.”

On March 8th of this year, responding to a question on the railroad bypass from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) during a hearing of the International Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried asserted that, “The proposed railway would bypass Armenia and thus not be beneficial to regional integration. We have no plans to support such a railway financially. The Administration has not allocated or expended any federal agency funds or otherwise provided financial support for the intended project.”

The House action brings the measure – the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Bill – in line with the Senate’s version, adopted earlier this year, and sets the stage for its final adoption this week. Once finalized by both houses of Congress, the law will go to the President’s desk for his signature.

Commenting on today’s action, Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), who navigated the measure through the legislative process, noted that, working in cooperation with Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), he was pleased to have been able to “assist in promoting stability in the Caucasus region, help in ending long standing conflicts, and save U.S. taxpayers the responsibility of funding a project that goes against U.S. interests.”

The Senate, during its final day in session before the November 7th mid-term elections, passed the measure by unanimous consent as part of its reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. On September 21st the Senate Banking Committee, during its consideration of the Export-Import bill, had agreed to add the railway language, offered initially as an amendment by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), to the larger measure. The Menendez Amendment was ultimately accepted as a “manager’s amendment” by Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Ranking Democrat Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and unanimously approved by the panel.

The U.S. House, this July, adopted the railway language as part of its version of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Bill, following a successful effort within the Financial Services Committee, spearheaded by Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Ed Royce (R-CA), to amend this text to the EXIM measure. Both versions are based on the South Caucasus Integration and Open Railroads Act of 2006 (S. 2461 / H.R. 3361), introduced in the Senate by Rick Santorum (R-PA) and in the House by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), the Co-Chairman of the Armenian Caucus.

The 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. In October of 2005, 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 bill text concerning the Armenia railroad bypass reads as follows:

SEC. 11. PROHIBITION ON ASSISTANCE TO DEVELOP OR PROMOTE CERTAIN RAILWAY CONNECTIONS AND RAILWAY-RELATED CONNECTIONS.

Section 2(b) of the Export-Import Act of 1945 (12 U.S.C. 635(b)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

(13) Prohibition on Assistance To Develop or Promote Certain Railway Connections and Railway-Related Connections.–The Bank shall not guarantee, insure, or extend (or participate in the extension of) credit in connection with the export of any good or service relating to the development or promotion of any railway connection or railway-related connection that does not traverse or connect with Armenia and does traverse or connect Baku, Azerbaijan, Tbilisi, Georgia, and Kars, Turkey.

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.

The full text of Congressman Crowley’s remarks are provided below:

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Congressman Crowley Statement
Export Import Bank Reauthorization
December 6, 2006

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization

This bill will strengthen the Export-Import Bank’s abilities to allow American companies to compete in the global market as we try to increase our exports, increase our global competitiveness and create more and better paying jobs in the USA

This is a bill about exporting products not jobs

Additionally, I am happy to say that both the Senate and the House versions of this bill include language that I co-authored pertaining to the nation of Armenia, a great U.S. ally.

My language, done with Congressmen Ed Royce and Brad Sherman, prohibits the Export-Import Bank from funding any railway projects from Azerbaijan, through Georgia and Turkey, which specifically bypasses Armenia. I am very pleased that this language was included in the final version of this legislation.

This language will assist in promoting stability in the Caucasus region, help in ending long standing conflicts, and save U.S. taxpayers the responsibility of funding a project that goes against U.S. interests.

For over 10 years, Armenia has fought a blockade, imposed on them by the countries of Turkey and Azerbaijan. These two countries continually exclude Armenia from regional development.

Exclusion of one country in regional projects only fosters instability

Besides possibly creating a regional crisis, this project, if funded by the Export-Import Bank could cost taxpayers millions. I do not believe that U.S. taxpayers should be funding a project that goes against U.S. interests.

I am pleased this good language was added to an already good bill.

Therefore, I urge my colleagues to support the Export-Import Reauthorization.