Washington, D.C. - A House panel on Wednesday voted to block the Export-Import Bank of the United States from funding a proposed railroad that would link Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan while bypassing Armenia.
The Export-Import bank is the federal government agency that helped finance the ill-conceived Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline to transport crude oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Congressmen Brad Sherman joined Congressmen Joseph Crowley and Edward R. Royce in offering the amendment. Their proposal would advance regional cooperation and economic integration for the South Caucasus by preventing taxpayer dollars from being spent on efforts that would deliberately exclude Armenia from commercial opportunities.
Sherman said the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has been blunt about the bid to cut off Armenia. “If we succeed with this project, the Armenians will end in complete isolation, which would create an additional problem for their future, their already bleak future,” Aliyev said.
According to preliminary estimates, the suggested railroad construction project in question would cost at least $400 million to $800 million and take years to construct. The existing line, which crosses Armenia, is already in working condition and could be operational in a matter of weeks at very little cost.
Moreover, Ambassador-Designate Anne Derse recently indicated that the proposed railroad would “not be beneficial to regional integration…”
By approving the amendment, the House Financial Services Committee sent a strong message that it does not endorse attempts to undermine U.S. policy goals in the region.