Germany's coordinator for transatlantic relations has called for a moratorium on construction on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a project that is fiercely opposed by the United States.
"The project is a serious obstacle for a new start in transatlantic relations," Peter Beyer, a member of Merkel's conservatives, told German business weekly WirtschaftsWoche, in an apparent departure from Germany's official support for the project.
"The Americans expect us not only to change our rhetoric, but also to let actions speak. I therefore plead for a construction moratorium on Nord Stream 2," Beyer said.
Germany so far has been pushing for the pipeline's completion despite sustained U.S. opposition over more than a decade.
The undersea pipeline between Russia and Germany, which is about 95-percent completed and could be finished by September, has come under fierce criticism from Washington.
U.S. officials warn it will make Europe more dependent on Russian energy supplies, and U.S. President Joe Biden is dangling the threat of sanctions.
Washington has already imposed sanctions on the Russian company KVT-RUS, which operates the pipe-laying vessel Fortuna. That measure was announced by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump shortly before the end of his term in January.
Berlin had seemingly hoped Biden's administration might take a softer stance, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told Germany the project is "a bad idea, bad for Europe, bad for the United States" and warned that sanctions against Nord Stream 2 were a real possibility.
Russia and Germany argue that Nord Stream 2, an $11 billion venture led by Russian state energy company Gazprom, is mainly a commercial project.
Supporters of the pipeline under the Baltic Sea say the U.S. opposition to Nord Stream is grounded in its interest in selling more of its own liquefied gas to Europe.