December 21, 2019

Berlin outraged after Donald Trump hits gas pipeline project with sanctions
Berlin has accused Washington of interfering in German internal affairs, after Donald Trump signed off on US sanctions against companies building a Russian natural gas pipeline to Germany. "The Federal Government rejects such extraterritorial sanctions," Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman, said in Berlin on Saturday.  “They affect German and European companies and constitute an interference in our domestic affairs." The US is an outspoken opponent of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas about 750 miles from Russia, through the Baltic Sea and into Germany.  The sanctions will hit any company working with Russia’s state-owned Gazprom to complete the project.  On Saturday, Switzerland-based Allseas, which operates ships laying sections of the undersea pipeline, said it was suspending work on the £8.5 billion project, which is well advanced.  Washington and Eastern European countries oppose the project because it will increase the EU’s heavy dependence on Russian gas imports.  The pipeline will double Russian energy imports into Germany and, the US fears, give the Kremlin leverage over the EU and its leading economy. Nord Stream gas pipeline The project also bypasses Ukraine, raising fears it would cost the country valuable gas transit fees it currently receives from Moscow.  Ms Demmer said the US measures were "particularly incomprehensible" because Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement in principle Thursday on the future transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory. The German-Russian Chamber of Commerce insisted last week that the pipeline was important for energy security and urged retaliatory sanctions against the United States if the bill passes. Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted she would not retaliate. She said on Wednesday, "I see no alternative to conducting talks, though very firm talks, (to show that) we do not approve of this practice." The European Commission said it would carefully examine the sanctions to see how they affected EU companies.  "In principle, the EU rejects sanctions against EU companies that do legitimate business," a spokesman said. Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly approved the sanctions, with the Senate voting Tuesday to send the measure to Trump's desk. Iran, Malaysia, Turkey and Qatar are considering trading among themselves in gold and through a barter system as a hedge against any future economic sanctions on them, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday. At the end of an Islamic summit in Malaysia, Mahathir praised Iran and Qatar for withstanding economic embargoes and said it was important for the Muslim world to be self-reliant to face future threats.
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