Ukraine will remain gas transit country even with Nord Stream 2, Merkel says

Photo: EPA German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky give statements ahead of talks at the Chancellery in Berlin, 12 July 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reassured Kiev on Monday that Ukraine will remain a transit route for natural gas even after the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, news wires reported. Merkel made the remarks during a news conference with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky three days before she holds talks in Washington with US President Joe Biden, whose administration is against the almost completed pipeline.

“The European Union and Germany will see to it that this continues in the future beyond 2024,” Merkel said, cited by Reuters. “We promised Ukraine and will keep our promise. It is my custom to keep my word and I believe this applies to every future chancellor.”

Washington and Kiev fear Russia could use the pipeline, which will bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, to deprive Ukraine of lucrative transit fees and potentially undermine its struggle against Russian-backed separatists.

Zelensky proposed that the issue of Ukraine’s energy security be incorporated into the so-called Normandy Format talks at which Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany discuss the status of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Merkel was cool on the idea. “I believe the Normandy Format is complicated enough already,” she said. The four parties last meet in 2019.

In May, Biden waived sanctions against the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Germany has refused to halt the project, arguing that it is a commercial venture and a sovereign issue. "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 controversial project is likely to figure prominently in talks at the White House on 15 15 when Merkel meets US President Joe Biden. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 23 June reiterated warnings about Nord Stream 2 during meetings in Berlin with Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

 

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