U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated warnings about the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline during meetings in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on June 23.
Blinken said he and Maas agreed that concrete steps are needed to “ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool directed at Ukraine or anyone else in Europe.”
The United States continues to believe that the pipeline is “ultimately a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and potentially undermines the security of Ukraine and other countries in the region,” Blinken said at a news conference after meeting Maas.
Maas said a number of possibilities and approaches that are being discussed aimed at reaching results “that can also be supported in Washington.”
The planned visit of Merkel to the United States in July would be a suitable time to achieve results, Maas said, adding that Germany is also “engaging with Ukraine” on the matter.
The United States has opposed the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea that will bring Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing land routes through Ukraine, which will deprive it of billions of dollars in transit fees.
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.
The State Department last month announced it would not sanction the pipeline’s Russian-owned operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, or its CEO, Matthias Warnig, who is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Since then, talks have been under way between Germany and the U.S. on how to proceed. As Blinken made clear again in his conversation with Maas, the project was already more than 90 per cent finished by the time the Biden administration came to office.
Blinken and Maas also discussed the importance of coordinated transatlantic relations to deal with challenges such as China and Russia, as well as recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Afghanistan, and climate change, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
In addition to meeting Merkel and Maas, Blinken also took part in a conference with European partners and representatives of Libya’s UN-backed interim Government of National Unity (GNU) on bringing peace to the North African country.
The United States and its partners will use the conference to reaffirm their support as the GNU prepares for national elections on December 24 and to urge the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from the country, said U.S. envoy for Libya Richard Norland.
Norland said the United States sees the conference as providing momentum for establishing a constitutional basis and a legal framework, which must occur if the elections are going to take place as scheduled.
“This process has been delayed,” Norland said. “We think it needs urgent attention, and this conference is an opportunity to reinforce that message.”
The Berlin conference follows an initial conference held on Libya in Berlin in January 2020. Norland said it was important that the GNU be included in the second conference on June 23.
Blinken is scheduled to travel from Berlin to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and then on to the Vatican.
He closes his trip on June 29 with a meeting of the Group of 20 major economies in the Italian city of Matera, potentially bringing him face to face with his counterpart from China, a country whose growing assertiveness internationally has been identified by the Biden administration as one of its top challenges.
With reporting by AFP and dpa