Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction to press on despite US sanctions

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AP
Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction to press on despite US sanctions
Copyright  Associated Press

Construction of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline will press on despite the introduction of US sanctions, the group behind the gas pipe project announced on Saturday.

"Completing the project is essential for European supply security. We together with the companies supporting the project will work on finishing the pipeline as soon as possible," Nord Stream 2 said on Saturday.

Moscow "will continue to implement its economic projects regardless of anyone's sanctions", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Ships from the Swiss-Dutch company AllSeas had been laying sections of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will run from Russia to Germany, in the Baltic sea.

But after US President Trump signed a bill on Friday that introduces sanctions on anyone involved in the project, work was suspended, AllSeas announced on Saturday.

The US has been an outspoken opponent of the pipeline, which will transport natural gas across 1,200 kilometres. Along with eastern European countries that also oppose the project, the US government argues that it will increase Europe's dependence on Russia for energy.

Switzerland-based AllSeas said in a brief statement that "in anticipation of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), AllSeas has suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities".

The company will "expect guidance comprising of the necessary regulatory, technical and environmental clarifications from the relevant US authority,'' it added.

Construction of the pipeline is already well advanced, and it wasn't immediately clear what the impact will be. Nord Stream 2 spokesman Jens Mueller said in an emailed statement that "completing the project is essential for European supply security".

The German government said it regretted the approval of the US legislation.

"The German government rejects such extraterritorial sanctions," spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement. "They affect German and European companies and constitute an interference in our domestic affairs."

Demmer said the US measures are "particularly incomprehensible" since Russia and Ukraine have reached an agreement this week on the future transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine has been one of the countries that oppose Nord Stream 2 because it feared being frozen out as a gas transit country as a result of the pipeline's construction.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that Germany is not considering retaliation against the US sanctions.

She told lawmakers in Berlin: "I see no alternative to conducting talks, though very firm talks, (to show that) we do not approve of this practice.''

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday that Moscow assumes the pipeline will be completed and called the U.S. move "a direct violation of international law."