EXPORT-IMPORT BANK REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2006)
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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, first of all I do want to thank my colleagues from New York, particularly JOE CROWLEY, for this provision in this bill relating to Armenia and the railroad in the Caucasus region.
I also want to thank the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mrs. Maloney, she has always been outstanding on issues that impact Armenia and the Caucasus; as well as our full committee chairman and the ranking member, Mr. Frank from Massachusetts.
I just want to stress how important this provision is with regard to Armenia and the Caucasus region. It has been the policy of this Congress, as Mr. Crowley said, for some time, to encourage interrogation of the Caucasus nations, that is, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, as well as Turkey. And the idea of building a railroad that would cut off Armenia, which has been suggested by Azerbaijan and Turkey, would be totally contrary to the policy that this Congress, both under Democrat and Republican leadership, has had for the last 20 years every time we have tried to encourage integration, even a customs union eventually between these Caucasus nations. And to cut off one of the countries in this significant way by building a railroad around Armenia that bypasses it is totally contrary to that policy.
We should also understand that an existing railroad is there. I actually was in Gumry in Armenia and there is a railroad now that goes between Turkey through Armenia and then to Azerbaijan. So there is absolutely no reason to build a new railroad. All you have to do is open the borders, which are now blockaded by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and allow this railroad to be upgraded somewhat, at very minimal cost.
You have to understand that in this region both the powers in Turkey, in the Karaz region of Turkey, as well as those within the Gumry region of Armenia, are in favor of opening the old railroad and ending the blockade. The mayors in these regions, the county officials, have worked together to try to bring these regions together. Unfortunately, in Ankara, the Turkish Government is opposed to it, and they have done everything they can to stop it, and now they propose this new railroad.
This unfortunately happened already with the oil pipeline. The Caspian oil pipeline was supposed to go through Armenia, it is the shortest route, and it was bypassed. So now we have a situation where, because of the oil situation, Armenia is bypassed and we find more and more this effort to isolate Armenia. It is a mistake.
As has been mentioned by my colleagues, if you don't bring countries together, and I use the European Union as an example, those countries in Europe fought each other for generations, but once you had a European Customs Union they worked together. Now they are a unified whole.
If this policy continues of isolating Armenia, it will only lead to another war, because as Armenia becomes isolated and those countries around it become more and more antagonistic, the end result could possibly be another war.
That is not in the interests of the United States. We have to fight this war against terrorism. We need all the Caucasus nations working together. Ultimately what I would like to see is a customs union similar to the European Union in these Caucasus nations.
So I just want to thank everyone, Mrs. Maloney, Mr. Frank, Mr. Crowley, for putting a stop to this policy of isolating Armenia, which is not good for Armenia, not good for the Caucasus nations, and ultimately not good for the United States. Let's continue the policy of cooperation in bringing these countries together for the common good.
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