WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), speaking at a Congressional hearing yesterday on oil diplomacy, stood up against Armenia’s exclusion from regional energy projects at the insistence of Turkey and Azerbaijan, including, most notably, from the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We very much appreciate Congressman Sherman’s principled stand against Armenia’s exclusion from regional energy projects,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s actions run directly counter to U.S. interests in greater regional integration and may well result in American taxpayers being forced to help cover hundreds of millions of dollars in increased costs for a proposed pipeline route that would bypass the more economic and commercially viable route through Armenia.”
The hearing, held by the House International Relations Committee, addressed the topic of “Oil Diplomacy: Facts, and Myths behind Foreign Oil Diplomacy.” Among those testifying were Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Alan Larson, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. Both officials voiced support for the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Neither commented on Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s pressure on energy firms and other nations to route the pipeline around Armenia, at significantly greater cost. Also testifying was Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, a consistently anti-Armenian Washington, DC-based think tank.
In his remarks, Secretary Abraham said that, “The United States has been a strong proponent of new pipeline capacity to transport oil in an East-West corridor to reach world markets. Late last year, I attended the inauguration ceremony for the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) that opened its pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea, providing direct access from Kazakhstan to export markets. We continue to support a new pipeline – the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline – that will be able to carry one million bpd (barrels per day) from the landlocked Caspian to world markets.”
Mr. Larson explained that, “The reason why the United States has worked hard to build the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline through Turkey is to get energy out through a country who wouldn’t try to use the oil as leverage.”
Following their testimony, Congressman Sherman shared with the witnesses his view that “this [Baku-Ceyhan] pipeline is almost an act of hostility toward Armenia.” He noted that routing the pipeline to exclude Armenia from the region’s energy development “creates what would be a military target [Armenia] in the event of new hostilities.” The California Democrat closed by stressing that such a pipeline would hurt rather than help efforts to solve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, and that the better option would be to build a “peace pipeline directly through Armenia.”
Legislation currently before Congress (H.Con.Res. 162) would protect U.S. taxpayers from being forced to subsidize the added expense of building a pipeline route around Armenia. If adopted, this legislation would ensure that:
1) The United States would not subsidize any oil or gas pipeline in the South Caucasus whose commercial viability is in doubt or which hinders the United States goal of integrating Armenia into a secure and prosperous regional economic framework;
2) All proposals for South Caucasus oil and gas pipeline routes would be carefully evaluated to ensure that all nations of the Caucasus are included in consideration of energy and trade routes;
3) Any U.S. funded engineering/feasibility study or any project implementation focusing on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, or similar energy transportation projects, would include trans-Armenian routes;
4) The Trade Development Agency would fund and support an oil and gas pipeline feasibility study to determine the cost savings of a trans-Armenia Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.