Merkel Says Gas Will Transit Ukraine Even After Nord Stream 2 Finished
By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service July 12, 2021
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to assure Kyiv that Ukraine will remain a transit route for natural gas even after completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russia to Germany.
Ukraine and the United States have opposed Nord Stream 2's construction under the Baltic Sea, which will allow Russian suppliers to bypass land routes through Ukraine and thus deprive it of billions of dollars in transit fees.
"Ukraine is and will remain a transit country even once Nord Stream 2 is completed," Merkel told a press conference in Berlin on July 12 alongside visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Germany has refused to halt the project, arguing that it is a commercial venture and a sovereign issue.
Critics have said it will increase German dependence on Russian energy supplies and make Berlin more susceptible to Russian influence.
"There are big worries about this on the Ukrainian side, and we take those seriously," Merkel said, adding that Germany would do "everything we can" to guarantee the key revenue source for Ukraine.
The State Department announced in May that it would place sanctions on neither the pipeline's Russian-owned operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, nor its CEO, Matthias Warnig, who is regarded as an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking in Berlin, Zelenskiy reiterated that Nord Stream 2 posed "a potential security threat to Ukraine and the region."
Merkel said Germany would strive to keep Russian gas flowing through Ukraine "in the future."
"That's what we promised Ukraine," she said, "and I keep my promises and I think any future German chancellor will as well."
The controversial project is likely to figure prominently in talks at the White House on July 15 when Merkel meets U.S. President Joe Biden.
It will be Merkel's first visit to Washington since Biden took office in January.
Merkel, now in her fourth term, will step down after German national elections in September.
But on July 12 Merkel expressed doubt the upcoming talks with Biden would resolve the disagreement between Berlin and Washington over Nord Stream 2.
"I don't know whether the papers will be fully finalized, so to speak. I believe rather not," Merkel said, adding that "these will be important talks for developing a common position."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 23 reiterated warnings about Nord Stream 2 during meetings in Berlin with Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Blinken said he and Maas agreed that concrete steps were needed to "ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool directed at Ukraine or anyone else in Europe."
With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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