Merkel doubts Biden meeting will solve gas pipeline dispute

Politics

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky give statements ahead of talks at the Chancellery in Berlin, Monday, July 12, 2021. (Stefanie Loos/Pool Photo via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she doubts the dispute between her country and the United States over a nearly completed gas pipeline from Russia will be fully resolved at a meeting with President Joe Biden this week.

Washington has long argued that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany endangers Europe’s energy security and harms allies such as Ukraine, which currently profits from transit fees for Russian gas. The United States recently waived sanctions against German companies involved in the project, raising hopes in Berlin that an agreement acceptable to all sides can be found.

Merkel said she will discuss the issue with Biden at a White House meeting Thursday, but added: “I don’t know whether the papers will be fully finalized, so to speak. I believe rather not.”

“But these will be important talks for developing a common position,” she added.

Germany is keen to increase its use of natural gas as it completes the shutdown of its nuclear power plants next year and phases out the use of heavily polluting coal by 2038.

Merkel’s comments to reporters in Berlin came ahead of a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has warned that Nord Stream 2 poses a threat to his country’s energy security. Should Russia route all of its gas around Ukraine in future, the country might be cut off from the supplies it needs, putting it at further risk of being pressured by Moscow.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and supports separatists in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas.

Zelenskyy said he was looking for guarantees that Ukraine will remain a transit country for Russian gas beyond 2024. He also suggested that the gas issue should become part of four-way talks between his country, Russia, Germany and France on solving the conflict in eastern Ukraine and that the United States could join those negotiations.

Merkel said she took Ukraine’s concerns seriously and that Germany and the European Union would use their weight in negotiations with Russia to ensure the agreements are extended.

“We have promised this to Ukraine and we will stick to that. I keep my promises and I believe that is true also for any future German chancellor,” she said.

Merkel isn’t running for a fifth term in Germany’s national election on Sept. 26.

She also announced that Germany will give Ukraine 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, with more shots possibly to come.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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