|Source:||US House of Representative|
Mr. KNOLLENBERG. Mr. Speaker, United States foreign policy toward the South Caucasus nations is one of fostering regional stability and enhanced cooperation. I rise today to bring attention to the great injustice in relations in this region.
I speak today to stress my opposition and to move forward with legislation contesting the proposed railroad connecting Tbilisi, Georgia and Kars, Turkey. The proposed railroad would systematically bypass Armenia, and push them further into isolation.
As we all know, Turkey and Armenia have their differences. Although it is counterproductive to list those differences, instead I want to highlight the fact that it goes against United States policy to be in a position that further advances the turmoil in this region, The proposed legislation would bar U.S. support and funding for a rail link connecting Georgia and Turkey, but which directly averts Armenia.
Eight years ago, the former Turkish president and the former Georgian president meant to discuss the railroad that would ``open a third frontier crossing between the two countries,'' providing further commerce and economic opportunity for the South Caucasus region. Both countries would benefit immensely from this railroad.
While I will always support commerce-based proposals that spawn economic development around the world, this proposal initiates commerce at the cost of another country's economic development. This is unacceptable.
This railroad would cost between $400-$800 million to construct, while a perfectly workable and capable rail link already exists. It is evident to all that this new rail system is being proposed for the specific reason of diverting commerce around Armenia.
The construction of the proposed railroad would be equivalent to the people of Ohio building a new bridge to Canada just to avoid traveling through Michigan. The United States government would never condone this action, and we should not be in the practice of condoning the actions set forth by the Turkish government.
The existing rail would be available for use within weeks of an agreement between Armenia, Turkey, and Georgia. Furthermore, the Armenian people are willing to forego using the rail until normal relations with Turkey are established. Mr. Speaker, although normal relations may still take some time, there is no reason to further shut Armenia out of the equation.
Moreover, the building of this railroad also highlights the ongoing struggle between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Known by all, Azerbaijan's main goal is to strangle Armenia into submission of Nagorno-Karabakh. This railroad does just that.
The United States and other countries around the world, including Turkey, need to allow these two countries to agree upon a solution regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. It is necessary that third parties remain neutral. The proposed railroad not only stunts the diplomatic progress between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan , it unnecessarily blocks Armenia's economic and political progress.
I encourage my colleagues to look at the facts of this situation. The existing rail link would be available essentially as soon as possible and it would take a minimal amount of funding in order to get it usable again. Whereas, a new rail link would take months if not years to build, and would cost an estimated $400-$800 million. There should be no question as to which plan the United States supports.
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