ANCA Welcomes House Block on US Subsidy for Armenia Railroad Bypass

WASHINGTON–The US House of Representatives, as part of its efforts to resolve outstanding legislation during an end-of-year "lame duck" session, Wednesday adopted legislation that includes a provision protecting US 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. "Armenian Americans welcome today’s action by the US 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 8, 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 this 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 US taxpayers the responsibility of funding a project that goes against US interests." 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. 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.


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