ANCA: Bill Blocking Armenia Railroad Bypass Funding on Pres’ Desk

Armenian National Committee of America
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PRESS RELEASE
December 12, 2006
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918

LEGISLATION BLOCKING U.S. FUNDING FOR ARMENIA RAILROAD
BYPASS GOES TO THE PRESIDENT FOR HIS SIGNATURE

WASHINGTON, DC – Legislation containing a provision enforcing a
long-sought ban on U.S. financing of a proposed railroad that would
bypass Armenia, having been approved in its final form by both the
House and Senate, was sent to the President yesterday for his
signature into law, reported the Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA).

"Armenian Americans look forward to the President’s signing into
law the principled stand of the United States against Turkey and
Azerbaijan’s efforts to institutionalize their illegal blockades of
Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh," said ANCA Executive Director Aram
Hamparian.

The Senate voted by unanimous consent on December 6th in favor of a
reconciled version of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Bill
(S.3938). The House had approved this version on December 1st.
Both the House and Senate measures were 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 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.

On March 8th of this year, 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 final text of the measure reads as follows:

SEC. 11. PROHIBITION ON ASSISTANCE TO DEVELOP OR PROMOTE CERTAIN
RAILWAY CONNECTIONS AND RAILWAY-RELATED CONNECTIONS.

Section 2(b) of the Export-Import Act of 1945 (12 U.S.C. 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 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.

www.anca.org

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