ANCA welcomes key senate panel adoption of Menendez amendment to blo


DeFacto Agency, Armenia
Sept 22 2006

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) [Ho. He.
Dashnaktsutyan Washington-ee Hai Tahd-ee Krasenyag] today welcomed
the vote by a powerful Senate panel to block U.S. 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.

According to the information DE FACTO got at the ANCA, with a
unanimous voice vote earlier today, the Senate Banking Committee
adopted the amendment spearheaded by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ),
and later adopted as proposed by Committee Chairman Richard Shelby
(R-AL) and Ranking Democrat Paul Sarbanes (D-MD). According to the
measure, the Export-Import 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 provision
is now part of the Senate Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Bill,
also adopted unanimously by the Committee, paving the way for full
Senate consideration of the legislation.

"We would like to thank Senator Menendez, Chairman Shelby, Senator
Sarbanes, and all members of the Senate Banking Committee for ensuring
that U.S. taxpayer funds are not wasted in the construction of an
ill-advised railway project, initiated by Turkey and Azerbaijan, solely
to exclude Armenia," stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

"With this amendment, we are sending a simple message – that we believe
that the United States should support an integrated and inclusive
approach to economic and regional development in the Caucuses region,"
explained Sen. Menendez. "There is already a railway, which connects
these countries and passes through Armenia, which could be used to
build a Trans-Caucasus railroad. Why would we spend additional funds
to build a new railroad link that goes around Armenia?"

Sen. Menendez also stressed that the proposed railway goes counter to
U.S. policy in the Caucasus region. In response to Senators during
her confirmation hearing, U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse
noted that "because 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 Menendez amendment is based on the South Caucasus Integration
and Open Railroads Act of 2006 (S. 2461), introduced by Senator Rick
Santorum (R-PA) and cosponsored by Senators Menendez, Sarbanes and
Wayne Allard (R-CO). The House version (H.R.3361), introduced by Rep.

Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), currently has over 85 cosponsors. Both
measures stress that U.S. 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."

In June, a similar amendment to the House version of the Export-Import
Bank Reauthorization Bill was led by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), with
the support of Financial Services Committee colleagues, Representatives
Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Ed Royce (R- CA).

The House adopted the measure in July.

Following Senate committee passage of the measure, Rep. Crowley noted,
"With this amendment, the US Congress is telling the governments of
Turkey and Azerbaijan that it is wrong to continue their Cold War
style campaign against Armenia and hurt its economic growth. Their
actions against Armenia will meet with real consequences, and we
are taking note of this inexcusable behavior. By excluding Armenia
in these regional projects, Turkey and Azerbaijan are putting the
finishing touches on a 10-year-old economic blockade against this
republic that has made great progress in implementing democratic and
economic reforms."

In the days leading up to the vote, ANCA chapters and activists in key
states contacted members of the Senate Banking Committee in support
of the Armenia railway provision.

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 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.

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