By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – Germany defended the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project on Monday despite criticism from the U.S. and amid escalating tension between Russia and Ukraine.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas underlined his government's view of the Nord Stream 2 project, which plans to carry Russian gas to Germany and West Europe directly across the Baltic Sea bypassing Ukraine, as an economic project but that it has also taken into account its political aspects.
"It is not the German government but companies from Germany and other European countries that are running this pipeline construction," he stressed.
Maas argued that Germany has always raised Kiev's concerns during talks with Russia to ensure that gas transit through Ukraine would continue even after the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to become operational in early 2020.
"Russian President Putin has made a commitment on that during his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in August," he affirmed.
The U.S. administration opposes the pipeline project, which is expected to cost around $11 billion. Germany, for its part, blames Washington for seeking to block the Russia-Germany gas pipeline to boost its own exports of natural gas.
Poland, Denmark and Ukraine also oppose the project, arguing that it would increase the EU's dependency on Russian gas while also contending that Europe should instead focus on diversifying its energy resources.
Germany’s top diplomat claimed that even if German companies withdraw from the project, it would not stop the construction of the pipeline.
"The Nord Stream 2 would still be built. However, there won’t be anyone standing up for alternative gas transit through Ukraine," he said.
The Nord Stream 2 is a 1,230 kilometer-long pipeline project that plans to carry 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, enough to supply 26 million European households.