Germany approves resuming Russia gas pipeline work

International

Tugboats get into position on the Russian pipe-laying vessel “Fortuna” in the port of Wismar, Germany, Thursday, Jan 14, 2021. The special vessel is being used for construction work on the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea. ( Jens Buettner/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities on Friday gave immediate permission for work to resume on a subsea pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia.

The decision by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency can be appealed, meaning there could be another halt to the construction on the Nord Stream 2 project, which has drawn major criticism from the United States, some other European countries and environmental groups.

The U.S. government has argued that the Baltic Sea pipeline would make Europe more dependent on Russian gas and hurt European energy security. The Kremlin has responded by accusing Washington of trying to promote its own liquefied natural gas sales.

The pipeline project was also opposed by the administration of President Barack Obama, and German officials have said they don’t expect broad changes in U.S. policy when President-elect Joe Biden takes over from President Donald Trump.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters on Friday, however, that he did expect high-level talks with the incoming administration about the possibility of new U.S. sanctions on companies involved in the pipeline project.

“Naturally we want to talk about this topic with our colleagues in Washington as soon as the new administration is in office,” he said.

Maas added that he did not know whether the companies involved in building the pipeline had plans to immediately resume work following the Maritime and Hydrographic Agency’s ruling.

The Russian state-controlled natural gas company, Gazprom, has positioned a ship to resume work on the multibillion pipeline, which was suspended after a Swiss firm pulled its vessels out of the project amid threats of U.S. sanctions. Because the Russian ship is of a different type than the Swiss vessels, Germany had to issue fresh authorization.

Gazprom says 6% of the pipeline, or about 150 kilometers (93 miles), remains to be completed.

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