WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) welcomed Wednesday the vote by a powerful Congressional panel to block US 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 Wednesday–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."
Representative Crowley serves as the Chief Deputy Minority Whip. His amendment to the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2006 was co-authored by Representatives 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 governmen’s 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 US 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 (HR 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 US 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 at anca.org/action_alerts/actionalerts.php?aaid=93.
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 US goods and services to international markets.