AAA: Congressional Letter Urges Rice to Denounce Railway Project

Armenian Assembly of America
1140 19th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-393-3434
Fax: 202-638-4904
Email: [email protected]
Web:

PRESS RELEASE
August 22, 2005
CONTACT: Christine Kojoian
Email: [email protected]

CONGRESSIONAL LETTER URGES SECRETARY RICE TO DENOUNCE RAILWAY PROJECT
WHICH EXCLUDES ARMENIA

Proposed Railway Would Connect Turkey, Georgia & Azerbaijan

Washington, DC – Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chairs
Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), along with
Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ),
Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Edward Royce (R-CA)
and Adam Schiff (D-CA), today expressed their dismay to Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice over the Turkish government’s announcement to
move forward with a proposed rail link project that would connect
Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, but exclude Armenia.

In a letter sent to Secretary Rice today, the lawmakers urged the
U.S. government to denounce the rail link which bypasses Armenia and
undermines U.S. policy goals in the South Caucasus region.

The congressional letter said in part:

“Open and integrated transportation routes among Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, and Turkey are necessary to promote cooperation, support
economic growth, and help resolve regional conflicts. Unfortunately,
this policy is being undermined by efforts to exclude Armenia in
regional development projects…In no way should the United States
condone a proposal or program that directly undermines our goal of
fostering integration and cooperation among the countries of the
region.”

In July, Knollenberg, along with Pallone and Radanovich, introduced
legislation (H. R. 3361) that would prohibit funding for this
ill-proposed route, which is estimated to cost between $400-800
million and could take years to construct. The existing Kars-Gymuri
line which links Turkey, Armenia and Georgia could be operational in
weeks with only a few minor repairs.

“The Assembly commends the leadership of Congressman Pallone and his
colleagues for spearheading this letter and the legislative
initiative,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Hirair
Hovnanian. “Excluding Armenia from economic and commercial
opportunities undermines longstanding U.S. policy of promoting
regional cooperation and economic integration in the South
Caucasus. The Assembly strongly supports this congressional effort and
will continue to fight against such attempts to isolate Armenia.”

Introduced prior to the congressional August recess, H. R. 3361
currently has support of 20 Members and is expected to garner
additional supporters when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based
nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness
of Armenian issues. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership
organization.

NR#2005-085

Editor’s Note: Below is the full text of the congressional letter to
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

August 19, 2005

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

We were troubled by the Turkish government’s recent announcement that
the Turkish railway project connecting Kars Turkey, Akhalkalaki
Georgia, and Baku Azerbaijan is moving forward. According to the
statement, there will be a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss the
next phase of the project. We are writing this letter to urge you to
denounce this proposed rail link because it is specifically designed
to exclude the Republic of Armenia and undermines the United States’
policy toward the South Caucasus region.

The United States’ policy toward the South Caucasus region is focused
on fostering regional stability and enhanced cooperation. Open and
integrated transportation routes among Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
and Turkey are necessary to promote cooperation, support economic
growth, and help resolve regional conflicts. Unfortunately, this
policy is being undermined by efforts to exclude Armenia in regional
development projects. The proposed rail link would cost between $400
million and $800 million and would take years to construct, while a
perfectly workable rail link already exists and would be fully
operational with a few minor repairs.

There is only one difference between the existing and proposed rail
link: Armenia. The existing rail line goes through the city of
Gyumri, Armenia. This new rail line has been proposed so that the
region can develop economically without any benefit to Armenia,
further strangling them into economic isolation. Azerbaijan’s leading
role in developing the proposed new railroad and other similar actions
serve to undermine and avoid a just solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict and potentially destabilize the region.

We have recently proposed legislation (H.R. 3361) that would prohibit
United States’ funding from going toward the construction of this new
railroad. In no way should the United States condone a proposal or
program that directly undermines our goal of fostering integration and
cooperation among the countries of the region.

It is critical that the Department of State be on record denouncing
this proposed rail line because it goes against a stated United States
policy. This rail line would further isolate the Republic of Armenia
and deny them much needed opportunities for economic growth. Thank
you in advance for your consideration of this very important issue.

Sincerely,

Frank Pallone, Jr.
Joseph Knollenberg
George Radanovich
Steven Rothman
Joseph Crowley
Thaddeus McCotter
Edward Royce
Adam Schiff

www.armenianassembly.org

You may also like