Sat, 19 Sep 2020

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on August 11 for talks expected to cover the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

The pipeline, under construction in the Baltic Sea, would double Russia's direct natural gas exports to Germany while bypassing Ukraine, which stands to lose billions of dollars in gas-transit fees.

The United States has long opposed Nord Stream 2, which has increasingly become a source of friction between Berlin and Washington. The United States argues the project will endanger European security by making Germany overly dependent on Russian gas.

The United States already has imposed sanctions aimed at companies working on the project, saying the pipeline will increase the European Union's dependence on Russia for natural gas.

German officials have condemned the U.S. sanctions, and some critics argue that behind U.S. opposition to the pipeline project is its own desire to sell its liquefied natural gas to Europe.

Maas spoke with U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on August 9, expressing his "dismay" over the threat of sanctions against a German port operator for its part in a pipeline project. The port is a key staging post for ships involved in the construction of the pipeline.

Maas said he spoke with Pompeo about a letter sent last week by three Republican senators threatening sanctions against Faehrhafen Sassnitz GmbH, the operator of the Mukran Port, located in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's constituency on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen.

Maas did not provide further details of the conversation.

Senators Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas), and Ron Johnson (Republican-Wisconsin) said their letter "serves as formal legal notice" that the port operator, its board members, corporate officers, shareholders, and employees risk "crushing legal and economic sanctions" unless they stop providing goods, services and support for the Nord Stream 2 project.

This includes providing storage and provisions for the Russian-flagged vessels Fortuna and Akademik Cherskiy, the letter said.

"The only responsible course of action is for Faehrhafen Sassnitz GmbH to exercise contractual options that it has available to cease these activities," the senators said in their letter. It describes the nearly complete pipeline as a "grave threat to European energy security and American national security."

Work on the nearly $11 billion project, which is more than 90 percent complete, was halted in December 2019 after the United States passed a law that imposed sanctions on vessels laying the pipeline, forcing Swiss-based AllSeas to pull out.

Russian vessels are now seeking to finish the project, but they require help from international companies such as insurers and ports.

After the Moscow visit, Maas is scheduled to travel to St. Petersburg to express respect for the victims of Nazi Germany's blockade of the city during World War II, his office said in a statement. Hundreds of thousands of people died during the more than two-year siege, largely because of starvation.

With reporting by AP and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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