Full Senate Blocks US Subsidy for Kars-Baku Railroad

WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America welcomed the adoption by the US Senate of legislation protecting US taxpayers from funding an unnecessary and costly proposed railroad between Turkey and Georgia that would, if built, circumvent Armenia. The Senate, during its final day in session before the November 7 mid-term elections, passed the measure by unanimous consent as part of its reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. On September 21 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. "Armenian Americans welcome the Senate’s strong stand against the efforts of Turkey and Azerbaijan to institutionalize their blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We appreciate the leadership of Senators Santorum and Menendez in introducing the Railway legislation –as well as the vital support this measure received in the Banking Committee from Senators Shelby and Sarbanes." The language adopted by the Senate reads as follows: Section 2(b) of the Export-Import Act of 1945 (12 USC. 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 US 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 US 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 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.

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